Category: NYC Rare Book Dealer

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

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December 27, 2016

A Rare 18th century American Book – Its value and educational value

Lord Chesterfield’s Letters were not originally intended for publication.  Four hundred letters survived his son’s early death in 1768, and thankfully for  literature and posterity, were published in 1768 by the son’s widow.   The work became famous as a complete education manual of the 18th century, albeit the great Samuel Jonson did deride it for teaching the “”the morals of a whore”

The edition pictured here  – the first American- was published in 1789 in Philadelphia. It appears to be a great rarity with only three known copies listed  Worldcat and one at the American Antiquarian Society.  There are also no records in ABPC or Rare Book Hub or copies at auction in many decades.

It got me to ponder what was the first American published manual of education.  That honor probably goes to the New England Primer,  a textbook used by students in New England and in other English settlements in North America that was first printed in Boston in 1690.  With that said,  the famous Primer was religious in nature and followed a tradition of combining the study of the alphabet with Bible reading.

The present volume as an educational work is entirely different and is rightfully a guide to conduct and values in every practical sense.  Take the chapter on “Prejudice” which contains valid advice for even our internet age of highly partisan and fake news: “Never adopt  the notions of any books you may read, or of any company you may keep, without examining whether they are just or not, or you will otherwise be liable to be hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherish error instead of seeking the truth.”

I try to make it a habit of valuing books on this blog and this book presents a particular challenge.  It is certainly a pleasing copy in many respects, retaining the original binding with charmingly scratched initials of its early owner.  It also has some early handwritten provenance on its paste-downs.  Most unfortunately it is missing one leaf, ripped from the text block in the chapter on Lying.  Sadly, Chesterfield issues no admonishment or warning of the derived opprobrium for tearing out a page from a book!

A missing page can often be a fatal flaw in the antiquarian book world, but I am informed by Chesterfield to focus on virtues and not flaws.  As such, given it charm and rarity, I would still value the work at $1000 at least.

posted in: NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, sell rare books, selling rare books

June 24, 2016

Value of an Incunable – What’s the Real Biel?

With a specialty in early printed books, we are often sent rare books to evaluate.  One learns in life quickly enough (even as a toddler) to be suspicious of what we are told, and this carries through to the rare book trade – especially with regards to boxes, labels, and especially old bookseller descriptions.

This fine folio was handsomely presented in a protective cloth box with a morocco label proudly announcing “Biel Collectorium 1495.”  That would make the book an “incunable” – a book printed in the earliest days of printing before 1500.  Any book that can rightfully be called an incunable has a certain cachet in the world of rare book collectors and often warrants a high price or premium  just for being that old.  Indeed, one rarely sees an incunable for less than a few thousand dollars except perhaps in a poor or incomplete state.

It is difficult in this case to place blame for the incorrect identification on the previous owner.   Sometimes, attempts are made to deceive or inflate value, but this misidentification might more rightly be based on a reliance old bibliographical records that had recorded this seemingly undated book as being printed in 1495.  Even Worldcat.com still lists a copy still with the date.

In fact, we can with a little research quickly discover that this book is referenced  by the standard works on  early printed books including  Adams B1999; Hain-Copinger 3187; ISTC ib00653000.  All of them state that the book was printed in Tübingen y  Johann Otmar for Friedrich Meynberger, after 23 April 1501.

Well, what is the difference between a book printed in 1501 and one printed in 1499?  –  a lot actually even if it is only  buyer’s psychology. The paper is the same rag paper as they used only two years early and for all intents and purposes little changed in the printing world technologically in those two years to justify any difference in reverence or price. Nevertheless, this is a “post-incunable” and as such it just does not have the added prestige of being officially one of the first printed books that collectors covet.   It is disappointingly not a “fifteener” as some old time booksellers used to say.

Further hurting the value of this book is that it is only volumes three & four of a four volume set.   Thus despite its handsome and mostly original blind-stamped binding, its attractive printing and rubrication, and it being a  work Gabriel Biel, one of the most  distinguished theologians of the late Middle Ages, it nevertheless is worth less than $1000 at auction.

 

Rare Book Value

RareBookPrices - 1 (1)

posted in: NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Book Auction Value, selling rare books, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy Rare Books

May 5, 2016

16th century Illustrated Post Incunable Book Appraisal

This is a rather delighted early book we recently purchased directly out of an old estate library in New Jersey where it must have languished in the basement for several decades.  Yes, we do work hard buying libraries and estates nationally – digging with a lot of boots, masks, and gloves, to uncover hidden treasures.

The book is what is known as a post-incunable which usually refers to a book printed between 1500 and before 1530-1540- not quite the infancy of printing but a time of great experimentation and improvement.

What struck me as immediately interesting- and something I have not seen ever before- is an early drawing on the cover which strongly resembles a bookbinding.   I presume it also could be some geometric representation of a ceiling or other doodle, but given its proximity to the clasp it surely gives the impression of a drawing of a bookbinding.

The book itself is a 1520 illustrated edition of Ovid’s Epistulae Heroidum (Letters of Heroines) – a compilation of poems about aggrieved heroines in mythology and the heroic lovers that have mistreated, neglected or abandoned them.   Ovid apparently considered this suitable reading material to his assumed audience of Roman women – the ‘chick lit’ of its day – albeit I wouldn’t go so far to call this elegiac, erotic poetry the ‘1520 Shades of Grey’.

In terms of value, the book has a lot of appeal.  Generally illustrated post incunabula are highly collectible these days – and the illustrations present here are unusual and often depict women (the heroines) composing  letters and writing with some nice anachronistic Renaissance furniture  touches.  The blocks were re-used in earlier editions and probably originated from the workshop associated with the Malermi Bible.

The book suffers from some condition isssues- worming to the wooden boards and some loss, detachment of the text block, and some internal staining.  Nevertheless, it  very rare in commerce; a copy on RareBookHub shows a copy sold in 2006 for 1150 Euros.  Given that that  copy was in a less attractive later vellum binding and accounting for the passage of a decade and the rather curious drawing on the original wooden boards in the present copy, I would place its auction value closer to $2000.

 

 

The full description is here:

[POST INCUNABLE] [OVID] Epistolae heroides Ouidij diligẽti castigatione excultae: aptissimisq[ue] figuris ornatae: cõmentãtibus Antonio Uolsco: Ubertino Crescentinate: & A. Jano Parrhasio: necnõ Jodoco Badio Ascẽsio: in Ibin vero Domitio Calderino: Christophoro Zaroto & Ascẽsio …[Venice], [1520]. FOLIO.  12 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches.
COMPLETE. 6 preliminary leaves, cviii lvs.   Colophon: Venetiis per Georgiũ de Rusconibus. Anno dñi. M.D. XX. die. 27. mensis septemb. [printer’s mark].  Title within ornamental border; the 23 woodcut illus. several of the blocks are signed “L.”   Text bordered by commentary remarkably the text itself is relegated to a small frame of only on average 4 x 3 inches and surrounded buy a much larger 10 x 7 inches gloss visually emphasizing the important of the commentary.  Internally, some damp staining and toning or occasional white molding affecting some leaves.  Binding: worming to wooden boards, text block cleanly separated form boards, later vellum spine, evidence of clasp, minor corner loss to one board.  VERY RARE IN COMMERCE.  WORLDCAT NOTES ONLY 1 COPY.     Binding with two contemporary DRAWINGS of apparent bookbindings (one simple sketch to front cover) and a more elaborate design to rear cover.

“A critical text of the Heroides, surrounded by the notes of the outstanding Renaissance commentators. In addition to the letters, this edition has also the text to ‘In Ibin’, and the Vita Ovidii, by Antonius Volscus. The woodcut illustrations have a charm of their own. Most of them appear as panels in three parts, and many of them are genre scenes, unusual in the book illustration of the era, but in character with the contents of the book. Many of them illustrate women writing; almost all the different scenes show imagination and a certain technical skill. The title comes with an ornamental woodcut frame; another frame showing putti and mythological figures, adorns the first page of text. The origin of the woodcuts is Venice, and most of them seem to have been used in the edition of the Heroides which Tacuinus brought out in 1501. Sander 5279. who mentions only one other copy, in the Biblioteca Estense, in Modena. -A few stains, and some wormholes in the back part of the book.”  [Ref: William Salloch]

 

 

 

Incunable Dealer

IncunableDealer - 7

 

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