Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2021 Issue

Peeking into the World of Rare Books

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Old books in the era of social media

Rare Book Hub is heavy on old books and paper so it’s reasonable to spend an hour and a half watching a movie on the subject:  The Booksellers directed by D. W. Young.  It was released in September 2019, just a nano second ago in the world of old books.  Nope, I hadn’t been aware but thoroughly enjoyed  it recently.

 

It’s 98 minutes of absorbing dialogue making the case that dealers are the gatekeepers to the great books.  So it has been for 3 centuries.

 

Dealers and librarians have long deserved praise for their efforts to organize and structure the rare book field.  Joseph Sabin was both a dealer and an auctioneer in the second half of the 19th century, when he began his Bibliotheca Americana in 1867 [to be completed posthumously in 1936].  Charles Evans as a librarian created his American Bibliography, adding intellectual structure to the world of collectible books during his 31 year project that completed in 1934.  In the 1950’s Wright Howes, a specialist dealer, introduced Usiana to help the interested to understand and identify early non-fiction Americana.  In his era his book was a boon to understand the relationship between issue, rarity and value.  Such tools have always been essential and widely appreciated.  To dealers and librarians, we owe a profound debt.

 

With  the advent of the internet a different kind of resource emerged; the listing sites that the knowledgeable could initially apply their understanding to look for rarities being offered at low prices.  For this reason during the early years the internet was the skilled dealer’s friend although, since 2001 the garter snake turned into a python as Abebooks alone now lists more than 170 million items.  Scale turned the selling sites into a new kind of reference.

 

Into the transformational year 2019 The Booksellers, filmed between 2015-18, was introduced and spoken of as if the traditional dealer dominated game was continuing, just as Covid-19 was rewriting the script creating a sense of nostalgia for the bookselling world we have long appreciated.  In the juxta-position of the emerging world and the world on view in the film we could see that world was already slipping away.

 

Catalogues and book fairs are now being reconsidered. 

 

Realizing the high expense and limited reach of paper catalogues, dealers are now issuing electronic catalogues. They can now reach everyone everywhere, rather than just a handful of people on their mailing list, and they can update and add to their catalogues in real time. With Covid-19, they opened up virtual fairs, and while with the winding down of Covid-19 live fairs are returning, the virtual fair, with all its advantages in terms of reach and updating, and access any time of the day for any number of days, and lower costs for both dealers and buyers, has become a permanent part of the landscape. And while auctions have eaten into the market, dealers are increasingly responding with an if you can't beat them join them answer by starting their own auctions.

 

So to me this film, wonderfully done, feels out-of-date but can I also say “not-to-be-missed.”

 

I look forward to the next film that will reflect the many changes that are transforming the field:  the first being the surge of both new auction houses and more sales being offered by the established houses; the reliance on auction history as guides to rarity and value; and the intensification of collecting scope based both on what’s possible over variable time frames.  Dealers’ advantage was knowledge and these days information is much more widely shared.  But, as the builder of the largest database of auction and bibliographical history, I want to acknowledge that what separates the facts and the great copies is the wisdom great dealers possess.

 

When you sit down to see the film appreciate that America’s great Americanist, Bill Reese, made his last appearance, in this film.  He was, for more than 20 years, the captain that steered, by suggestion and example, how the principal dealers should be adjusting.

 

It is our tough luck that he passed away 2 years ago.  And our tougher luck that this recent film is feeling dated so quickly.

 

To see this movie on your phone, iPad and computer you have many opinions.. To pursue them search for “The Booksellers”:

 

  1. For free if you are an Amazon Prime member
  2. On Vudu for free
  3. On YouTube from $3.99

 

Here is the story in the New York Times that woke me from my slumber

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/arts/design/booksellers-movie-antiquarian-book-fair.html

 

 


Posted On: 2021-06-02 02:45
User Name: mairin

Always happy to see this 2019 documentary again, Bruce, terrific viewing.
Thank you for this. I knew & dearly loved many of these bibliophilic haunts & destinations; so sad that some are now gone, but a new generation is rising up!
- Maureen E. Mulvihill, Collector
(Brooklyn, 1982-2012)
___________________


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor:<br>A Magnificent Illuminated Ashkenazic Prayer Book<br>19 October 2021</b>
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor:<br>A Magnificent Illuminated Ashkenazic Prayer Book<br>19 October 2021</b>
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor:<br>A Magnificent Illuminated Ashkenazic Prayer Book<br>19 October 2021</b>
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor:<br>A Magnificent Illuminated Ashkenazic Prayer Book<br>19 October 2021</b>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Pancho Villa, passport for a news correspondent covering the Mexican revolution, signed, 1914. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Nirvana’s <i>Nevermind,</i> CD insert signed & inscribed days after release by Cobain, inscribed by Novoselic, 1991. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Robert Indiana, <i>The Book of Love,</i> complete portfolio, artist’s proof set, 1997. $100,000 to $125,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Marcel Vertés, Colette, <i>Chéri,</i> two volumes, deluxe edition, signed by the artist, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Orlando,</i> first trade edition, first impression, London, 1928. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Mark Twain, receipt for payment of the Mark Twain Public Library Tax, 1908. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk von Gustav Klimt,</i> portfolio, collotype plates, 1918. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <center><b>The 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop<br></b>Catalogue 190:<br>Magnificent Books & Photographs<br><b>Free on request</b>
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> William Shakespeare. <i>The Second Folio</i> (1632).
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> Abraham Lincoln. Autograph note on Black troops in the Union Army (1865).
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> Neil Armstrong. The largest known U.S. flag flown to the Moon on Apollo 11 (1969).
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> William Henry Fox Talbot. <i>The Pencil of Nature</i> (1844-1846) the first photo illustrated book.
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> Albert Einstein. Letter on relativity and the speed of light (1951).
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Hawking & Hunting.- Turberville (George). <i>The Booke of Falconrie or Hawking,</i> second edition, Printed by Thomas Purfoot, 1611. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> George Steevens' copy.- Coryate (Thomas). <i>Coryats Crudities Hastily gobbled up in five Moneths travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia...,</i> first edition, complete copy, Printed by W. S[tansby], 1611. £4,000 to £6,00
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Butler (Charles). <i>The Feminine Monarchie: or The Historie of Bees,</i> second edition, Printed by John Haviland for Roger Jackson, 1623. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Brathwait (Richard). <i>The English Gentlewoman, drawne out to the full Body: expressing, What Habilliments doe best attire her…,</i> Printed by B. Alsop and T. Fawcet, for Michaell Sparke, 1631. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Glapthorne (Henry). <i>The Ladies Priviledge,</i> first edition, Imprinted...by J. Okes, for Francis Constable, 1640. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Witchcraft.- F. (H.) <i>A true and exact Relation Of the severall Informations, Examinations, and Confessions of the late Witches, arraigned and executed in the County of Essex,</i> first edition, 1645. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Hobbes (Thomas). <i>De Corpore Politico. Or the Elements of Law, Moral & Politick,</i> first edition, 1650. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Early steam engine.- Worcester (Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquis). <i>A Century of the Names and Scantlings of such Inventions…,</i> first edition, 1663. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Cookery.- M[ontagu] (W[alter]). <i>The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, preserving and candying, &c,</i> 3 parts in 1 vol., 1674. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Speed (John). <i>An Epitome of Mr. John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain,</i> 2 parts in 1, 90 engraved maps, Printed for Tho. Basset, and Ric. Chiswel, 1676. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Le Boe (Franciscus). <i>Of Childrens Diseases... also a Treatise of the Rickets,</i> first edition, Printed for George Downs, 1682. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Economics.- Locke (John). <i>Several Papers Relating to Money, Interest and Trade,</i> first collected edition, Printed for A. and J. Churchill, 1696. £2,000 to £3,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>26th-29th of October 2021</b>
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th- 29th:</b><br>Books from XV to XX Century
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Manuscripts and autographs
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Artist books
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Cars & more
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Magazines
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th- 29th:</b><br>Books from XV to XX Century

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