Category: Handwritten Document Value

May 4, 2017

An Interesting Deed Indeed

Title and land deeds survive in abundance.  They are often large sheets of particularly sturdy parchment that have escaped the ravages of time that destroy a lot of other early paper counterparts and ephemera.    They are also quite attractive, filled with meticulous calligraphy  and generally remain a very neglected area of collecting.   I am often offered vellum deeds or asked how much they are worth.   Surprisingly, most have very little monetary value in the market unless they are signed by important people, are particularly early, or can shed some light on an interesting household.  Still, any old deed should be properly evaluated as some can fetch substantial sums. For example, a deed to Mohawk land at Schenectady, New York to Johannis Vedder, signed  by 3 Mohawks with their totem signatures, recently got $18,000 at a rare book auction.

This recently purchased 1694 New York deed is not in the high value category of Indian deeds, but it is of scholarly interest.  It conveys a water lot of Peter Sinclair, a mariner on the south side of Pearl Street.   Wait, but Pearl Street does not touch the water?   Well, it once did. In fact, it was the original eastern shoreline of the lower part of Manhattan Island, until the latter half of the 18th century when landfill over the course of several hundred years has extended the shoreline roughly 700–900 feet further into the East River, first to Water Street and later to Front Street.

Besides affording a lesson in early Manhattan geography, if not urban planning, it also gives insight into early immigrant communities. According to Joyce Goodfriend’s “Before the Melting Pot” (1994): “Religious persuasion may also have influenced the marriage choices of British immigrants to New York City. Because of the doctrinal similarity between the Presbyterian church and the Dutch Reformed Church, dissenters may have found it relatively easy to marry into Dutch families. Three Scottish men, for example, married Dutch women in New York City. ”  One of those Scotsman,  Robert Sinclair, married Mary Duycking in the New York City Dutch Reformed Church in 1683. “Sinclair‘s life history shows how a British newcomer was incorporated into a Dutch kinship network in New York City.”

 

 

17th Century Vellum Deed

17th Century Vellum Deed

posted in: Handwritten Document Value, NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, Old Manuscript Value, old paper, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Uncategorized, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books

February 18, 2017

Value of an Old Vellum Manuscript

I have had numerous enquiries over the years to evaluate and appraise old manuscripts.  Certainly, I come across my fair share of antiphonals, graduals and choir books  that once graced innumerable churches in Spain, Italy and Europe.  Given their large size, the incredibly resilient  vellum upon which they were written, and perhaps the respect (not always) accorded to obviously religious books, a lot have survived.

The value of such a manuscript is quite complicated and here I cannot of course go into all the particulars regarding the age, style of decoration, illuminations etc. that factor into their value.  As an illustration, below is a recent one that passed through my hands- a rather elegant late 15th to 16th century Spanish antiphonal.  It was almost complete with a large number  pages (234 in total), albeit at some point,  as is often the case, the finest pages were likely removed as specimens of the illuminated art.  Still, many very attractive pen-work initials survived  in Mudejar style that reflect the artwork of the  individual Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista.

One thing that I do not do is appraise these manuscripts as the value of an average individual page multiplied by the number of pages.   These are what I consider “book breaker” calculations and it is not something that I even consider.   Many beautiful books have been broken over the years for their plates as well as fine atlases dismembered for their individual framable maps.  Thankfully, given the economics of the trade, this has become less of an issue as complete preserved copies are often worth more as a whole than the some of their parts.  However, I do find the practice continues with antiphonal and liturgical manuscripts and the economics of selling individual pages at modest prices still favors tearing such books apart.

I will write here a bit of bibliophilic heresy (I know brace yourself!)  because while I do not condone the practice of breaking these manuscripts or evaluate them on that basis,  I do not condemn it either.   Many of these manuscripts are incomplete, and single examples (given the large surviving numbers) generally do not have singular importance in terms of what they add to our cultural or historical understanding of the period.  Also, in times past, dealers like Otto Ege, who made a controversial practice of dismantling medieval  manuscripts and selling the pages individually, also served the interest of scholarship in having some examples (even fragments) dispersed to many universities and a wider audience of students.  Therefore, I cannot say today, given the seemingly widespread lack of interest in objects of culture in general, that something  is not gained by having individual vellum leaves from such manuscripts grace ordinary living room walls.

 

 

OldManuscriptAppraisal

posted in: Handwritten Document Value, NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, Old Manuscript Value, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Book Auction Value, Rare book auctions, sell rare books, selling rare books, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books

October 1, 2016

The Value of Old Paper – Junk in the Trunk

Since we are large buyers of old paper, ephemera and manuscripts, we always caution sellers not to throw ANYTHING out.   It is incredible the number of times I am called to an estate or library to appraise or evaluate books, and after an hour of finding little of interest or value on the shelves, I discover in a drawer, attic, or overlooked closet,  papers that contain something remarkable or valuable.

Ephemera is loosely defined as “items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity.”  It includes a large variety of old paper, scrapbooks, trade-cards, broadsides, newspapers, and pretty much anything printed.  Sometimes these fragile – ephemeral- pieces of paper survive in very few if any copies and they are often cultural windows into the period in which they were printed.   In today’s market such ephemera has become very fashionable to collect – largely for its rarity.  Everyone wants something interesting and fresh that does not pop up with regularity in commerce or at auction.

About 15 years ago, as an example, I found a thin tissue paper laid in the pages of an old Irish book.  The paper contained the lyrics of the  “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, the now famous “Star Spangled Banner,”  written in 1814, by the young lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships.   It turned out to be an unrecorded and contemporary broadside of the poem and of considerable scholarly and monetary value.

As another example, sitting on the pile of old papers in the photo below is an interesting 1807 broadside that was printed in New Hampshire.   Simply signed by the anonymous ‘Americanus’,  it concerns raising taxes to pay for the cost of the Louisiana purchase- a subject which appeals to scholars interested in the history of economics as well (no doubt) to real estate brokers impressed with (if not envious of)  the greatest real estate deal in history.   As a rare broadside, it is worth up to $750 to the right buyer.

So, don’t throw any old paper out!  Sift through those trunks! Empty those drawers and shoeboxes.   There are lots of undiscovered treasures out there- it’s not just junk in a trunk.

[BROADSIDE] [AMERICANA] [DIRECT TAX]  Author: Americanus  [United States] : [publisher not identified], [New Hampshire, c. 1807] Moderately foxed, margins slightly chipped & frayed, several insignificant separations along folds. Uncut. VERY RARE. Top with “In such a country, so happily circumstanced,” [etc.—quotation from Washington’s Farewell Address]. 1 p. 45.2 x 28 cm. “Concerns the cost of the Louisiana purchase, with a table showing the proportionate cost per county of the $15 million bill, and describing how the Embargo Act makes it difficult if not impossible to pay France without a special tax. The writer, ”Americanus,” also warns of the threat of European war.” Ref: Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04073

 

 

webuyoldpaper-1

posted in: ephemera, Handwritten Document Value, old paper, sell rare books, Uncategorized

September 5, 2015

Value of a 14th Century Medieval Manuscript

Medieval Manuscript Appraisal

I was recently selling a NYC coop, feeling overwhelmed at the amount of paperwork and due diligence necessary to transfer ownership of shares, when I was offered a medieval deed.   It is a relatively small and simple document, when a man could transfer his earthly possessions- or in this case half his landholdings- on a mere document only 7 x 3″ inches in size.  It opens simply in Latin: To all [men] present and future…

So, what is the value of a document like this from the 14th century?  Surprisingly, they can be collected for rather modest sums.  Here are a couple records for other similar documents pulled from the ABPC manuscript database – a subscriber database that is an essential tool for examining past auction records of comparable books and documents and substantiating a fair market value.

England – _ KENT. – Document. Deed of Gift. [23 Feb 1411]. No size or length given. William George conveys a house in the village of Shynglewelle [sic]. Parchment. In Latin. Stained. – Winter, Apr 12, 2006, lot 294, £140 ($248)

England – _ KENT. – Document. Deed of Gift. [12 Mar 1398]. No size or length given. John Spernor de Cobham & John Topleche convey to Simon Lepy a plot of land in Shyngled Well [sic] .Parchment. In Latin. Stained. – Illus in cat – Winter, Apr 12, 2006, lot 293, £240 ($424)

True, this one is perhaps a bit earlier than some of the examples listed above (and dates to the early part of the 14th century).  However, at auction it would at most reasonably fall into the $400-500 range and perhaps a bit less as it is missing its original hanging seal.

To me that is rather remarkable:  this small and ephemeral document has escaped the ravages of time for 700 years and is only worth approx. $500?   Thankfully, it is written on vellum, a strong and utilitarian material which aided its survival.   Still, the manuscript provides insight into paleography (the study of ancient and historical handwriting), English medieval history, early legal history, and when framed is a rather remarkable and impactful object for the pleasure of both the eye and mind. Perhaps old Latin documents are bit too erudite for most and that has kept the prices low, but for the keen collector they are a bargain that will not last in the years ahead.  And certainly, I should send one to my real estate lawyer to show him how simple a document could be 😉

[ENGLISH MEDIEVAL DEED] Early 14th century.  [Incipit] Sciant p[re]sentes & fut[ur]i q[uo]d ego Robert de edui? dedi concessi & hac p[re]senti carta mea confirmaui Simoni filio… A fine medieval example of a deed of gift bequeathing half of his lands to his son Simon..  7 x 3 inches on vellum, evidence of attached seal at lower center.  With scarce 14th-15th century English explanatory text to verso. Small holes but generally very good.

posted in: Handwritten Document Value, NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, Old Manuscript Value, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Manuscript, sell rare books, We Buy Manuscripts