Category: Uncategorized

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

 

 

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

September 4, 2016

Value of a ‘Dust Jacket’ on a Rare First Edition

As a rare book dealer, I get calls on a weekly basis to provide valuations of first editions. These requests usually involves some household names of authors of the 20th century from Faulkner to Hemingway and Steinbeck to Fitzgerald.  One of the first questions that comes up is “does the book have the dust jacket?”  This often leads to great disappointment as it is difficult for someone not familiar with the antiquarian and rare book market to fully appreciate the value of a dust jacket on a literary first edition.   Once can see a copy of a particular first edition online for $20,000 and it can be incomprehensible how merely missing a piece of paper wrapper can reduce its value to a few hundred.

I won’t get involved in this brief post as to why dust jackets are so valuable. Suffice it to say, they can both be extremely rare given their ephemeral nature and beautiful as icons of graphic art.   Here, I would rather focus on an early type of “dust jacket.”   The earliest-known book dust wrapper dates from 1829 and was intended to protect a finely-bound gift book entitled Friendship’s Offering.  You can read about that Bodleian treasure here.    The dust jacket was therefore born as a simple protective wrapper and only later evolved into works of art and tools of marketing.  Oftentimes, the earliest jackets were used to protect expensive volumes bound in fine materials such as leather or silk.

The book below is not one of those finely bound volumes but a rather inexpensively produced and issued American imprint.  Specifically, it is a 1814 Boston edition (a first American edition) of “Some Details concerning General Moreau”, the French general who helped Napoleon to power, but later as a rival was banished to the United States and whose abode near Trenton eventually became the refuge of many political exiles.   Nevertheless, despite this rich history and actually being a scarce imprint in commerce, the book itself is not particularly valuable if one takes values in the auction databases as a gauge. In fact, I bought it in a lot myself at the very modest price of $20 from an antique dealer at the fun DCFlea.

One can notice in the photo a sort of dust jacket on the book that is almost contemporary with the date of publication.  That does not make it the earliest such jacket as I would have to make the reasonable assumption that this was not a wrapper issued by the publisher but rather placed on for protection slightly later by a reference library in Bath Maine of the American Colonization Society.   The book is inscribed by Jonathan Hyde who was one of the society’s earliest members.  Most interestingly,  the American Colonization Society promoted the relocation of free blacks to West Africa and transported 12,000 blacks to Liberia.

So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I do try to place a monetary value on the work and give some indication of how I arrived at a figure.  Despite it being a relatively early American imprint of French history,  it probably would not have a market value of anything more then $100 or so.  Still, with the added value of the early paper wrappers as well as its provenance and historical connection to free blacks, it has broader appeal both as a bibliographical curiosity and to the African-Americana collectors.  As such, I would place a fair value more likely in the $400 range.

Monetary value aside it, it is a wonderful example of how by unfolding the story of a simple unnoticed paper jacket, history itself unfolds.

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posted in: First Edition Appraisal, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Book Auction Value, Rare book auctions, Rare Books, sell rare books, selling rare books, Uncategorized, Value First Edition, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books

January 10, 2015

We Buy Americana – Free Rare Book Appraisals- Early American Binding

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SECRETS HIDDEN IN THE BINDING

We recently bought a set of Matthew Henry’s well-known six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments which provides an exhaustive verse by verse study of the Bible.  This is a relatively common work of the 18th century, and due to its its bulkiness and subject matter, doesn’t tend to hold much appeal for collectors.  A set can reasonably be obtained for a modest few hundred dollars.

So, why did we buy it?

What makes this particular set fascinating, and which shows there are plenty of discoveries to be made in old books, are the pages that were pasted as publisher’s waste inside the book.  Paper was expensive and bookbinders were loath to throw our scraps that could be re-used as binding material.   Many important discoveries are made from “binder’s waste” – even fragments of the Gutenberg Bible and otherwise lost manuscripts.

Here is a full description off our set that highlights the interesting leaves pasted-in.

Matthew Henry. An exposition on the Old and New Testament : In five volumes. … Wherein each chapter is summed up in its contents ; the sacred text inserted at large in distinct paragraphs ; each paragraph reduced to its proper heads ; the sense given, and largely illustrated: with practical remarks and observations. By Matthew Henry, late minister of the Gospel.  London : Printed for John and Paul Knapton in Ludgate-street, Thomas Cox under the Royal-Exchange ; Richard Ford and Richard Hett both in the Poultry, Aaron Ward in Little-Britain, and Thomas Longman in Pater Noster Row, 1737. [i.e. 1737-1738].   Five Folios, 40 x 26.5 cm., internally some toning, foxing and intermittent stains, Kings II in vol. I lacking some pages at rear, toning and discoloration to paste-downs with some cracking to boards and splitting of sheets,  t.p. of Vol. III pasted at a later date over a Roger and Fowle publishing sheet, corner to Vol. 1 of first signatures cut without loss and some singeing.  Bindings with general scuffing and discoloration, some chipping, and peeling to head of spine of Vol. 2.

WITH NINE UNCUT AND EXTREMELY RARE EARLY AMERICAN PUBLISHER’S SHEETS USED AS WASTE FOR PASTE-DOWNS AND, THEREFORE,  ALMOST CERTAINLY AN UNUSUAL EXAMPLE OF A SET OF EARLY AMERICAN FOLIO BINDINGS.

The nine paste-downs (more formally ten, but one is obscured at a later date) comprise repeated sheets of the first signature from a run of  “A letter from William Shirley, Esq; governor of Massachusetts-Bay, to His Grace the Duke of Newcastle : with a journal of the siege of Louisbourg, and other operations of the forces, during the expedition against the French settlements on Cape-Breton; drawn up at the desire of the Council and House of Representatives of the province of Massachusetts-Bay; approved and attested by Sir William Pepperrell, and the other principal officers who commanded in the said expedition. Published by authority.  [Boston] : London: printed 1746. Boston: re-printed by Rogers and Fowle, for Joshua Blanchard, at the Bible and Crown in Dock-Square, 1746.   Ref: Evans 5863

Shirley’s letter is one of the most important contemporary accounts of the French and Indian Wars, specifically King George’s War.  It was the first important English victory in America, when a New England colonial force, aided by a British fleet captured Louisbourg (present-day Cape Breton Island). “A provincial army under William Pepperell sailed from Boston on March 24, 1745, & was joined by a British fleet under Commodore Warren. Louisbourg surrendered on June 15—The diary spans March 24-June 17.” [Goodspeed Cat. 549, 1968]

This set is of particular American bibliographical importance.  Uncut sheets of the Boston printing could only conceivably have been available to the Rogers and Fowle or, possibly, the bookseller Joshua Blanchard with whom they corroborated.  Blanchard is recorded  by Isaiah Thomas in 1810 as “as a dealer in English editions, in stationery, &c., but finally he confined his trade solely to English goods.”  It is quite likely that Blanchard imported from London the unbound sheets of Carey‘s highly regarded Exposition and then had Rogers and Fowle bind them for a customer.  The bindings are almost certainly American; the leather is more coarse than typical English bindings and the boards have internal crude stitching under the paste-downs which one sees in  early American tree bark bindings, but generally not in their more refined English counterparts.

Evidence that ties these bookbindings to Rogers and Fowle is of particular interest as there is scant surviving information about their workshop.  Sometime prior to 1752 (and likely in the 1740s after this Shirley tract was issued), Isaiah Thomas  (who was earlier indentured as an apprentice to  Boston printer, Zachariah Fowle, where he learned his trade.) indicates that Gamaliel Rogers and Daniel Fowle printed “an edition of about two thousand copies of the New Testament, 12mo., for D. Henchman, and two or three other principal booksellers.” This would have been the first printing of the New Testament in America, but no copies have survived, and modern scholarship takes the unsurprising view that Thomas was mistaken in his claim.  Needless to say, if Rogers and Fowle indeed bound this large set of commentaries, as evidence suggests,  it would indicate a larger and more sophisticated workshop than previously supposed, and certainly one capable of undertaking a substantial printing run, by Colonial standards, of the  famous bibliographical ghost-printing of the NT.

Overall, this set is is interesting from many angles including the influence of Henry’s Exposition in the Colonies, with parallels to the extensive commentaries and writings of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards.  It is also a fine example of the English-American book-trade, when it was illegal for any printer in the Colonies to produce the English Bible, and the import trade flourished.  Most importantly, it may shed important light on the operations of one of Boston’s early and important printing establishments.

So, what is the set worth?

As I said, if this was just a regular set, it would not be an easy set to sell and may well only command $250 or so – despite being an impressive undertaking that no doubt took countless hours of toil and sweat in the 18th century to produce.

If we had the complete tract of 31 pages of this very rare Boston printing of the Shirley’s famous Letter, it might reasonably command $4000-6000 at auction.  However, we only have several interesting uncut sheets from that printing – not the complete work.   The sheets are of great rarity, but the market for them is highly specialized and narrow.  It is one of those cases of rare books, but rarer buyers.  Still, they are a worthy addition to many University libraries and would be of interest to scholars.  As such, we have priced them at $1800.

 

 

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February 8, 2013

The Rare Book Buyer

Many people have old and rare books in their homes that have been passed down in the family.  They might include a well-loved and worn edition of Dickens that may be worth only a few dollars or an unnoticed early colonial printing that could be worth thousands. Whether to raise money or simply because they can no longer be properly cared for, books gets sold. Nevertheless, selling a library or inherited book can be a very emotional process. Books contain not just the voice of their authors but reflect the person who bought them and can often bridge generations in a family. These short stories are meant to chronicle some of those connections and collections.

 

SELLER: Chris

LOCATION: Wallingford, Connecticut

WHO COLLECTED THE BOOKS:

The books, stacked in neat piles on the basement floor, were part of
the collection formed by Eugene Silver Barry,
Chris’s maternal grandfather.  Eugene S. Barry left school at twelve
and by his late twenties opened a leather tannery. He befriended a
bookseller in Boston, who in exchange for leather, offered rare books
and expert advice. Clearly, a love of books was an inherited trait as
his own father, Eugene Barry, Sr., was a published poet and an
original donor and trustee of the Lynn Woods Reservation, one of the
largest largest municipal parks in the United States. A humble volume
of his 1904 poetry, inscribed to his wife, sat lightly bruised and
infrequently dusted on the shelf.

BOOKS BEING SOLD:

Many of the books being sold concern voyages. As a leather tanner, Chris’s
Grandfather had a natural interest in the fur trade and exploration
books concerning the NorthWest Passage, the potentially highly
lucrative trade route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that
captured the imagination of generations of explorers. Collecting
exploration books was a shrewd investment. Mankind always has
yearned to uncover the mysteries of new lands and the fascination
has not escaped the attention of collectors. Fine copies
of important voyage and exploration books have become expensive.

BOOKS NOT BEING SOLD:

There is a nice ten volume 1912 set in blue cloth of The Photographic
History of the Civil War. That will stay in the family.
Chris’s relative, Sergeant Joseph R. Balsley of the 142nd Pennsylvania
Infantry, fought at Gettysburg and the set contains
thousands of Civil War photographs including those of Matthew Brady.
Chris proudly showed me his relative’s original battle sword.

Another book of sentimental value that will remain on the shelf is a
copy of Kipling’s Just So Stories. Chris’s Grandfather read it to him
as a child, but today he hesitates to read it to his own
grandchildren. The story of how the elephant got his trunk seems
dated and less palatable today when the paragraphs end with
“they beat him.”

A BOOK WORTH HIGHLIGHTING:

An attractive and sought-after copy of John Marshall’s The Life of
George Washington was one that grabbed my attention. Copies at auction
generally command $1500-2500 or more depending on the condition and issue.
This wonderful six volume set was printed between 1804 and 1807
and unites two great historical figures in American history- Chief
Justice John Marshall, the principal founder of our constitutional
law with George Washington, a founder of our nation. Washington was a
major influence on the young Marshall, and his eloquent biography was
drawn from Washington’s diaries, letters and secret archives. The
accompanying, and often missing, Atlas volume contains maps of
Revolutionary War battlefields. It is the type of patriotic work that
no doubt would have interested the upstanding and civic minded Barry
family.

REASON FOR SELLING:

There is no room in the house anymore and the books have been moved
between homes several times, with the occasional
nick in a spine or missing volume resulting from the shifts.

PLANS FOR THE MONEY:

The money will be funneled into the upkeep and care for a family property
in Maine. The property was originally bought by Eugene Barry, Sr. in 1988.
As Chris explained, he met a women (Lucy Wyman) from Sebec Village, at the
eastern end of the lake, at a church social after the men had rowed 12 miles
just to get there! They married, and the property has been in the family ever since.
Chris is the fourth generation and his grandkids are the sixth. It is a comforting
thought that the books have come full circle and the proceeds will benefit the family
property that was so dear to his Grandfather’s heart.

 


The books as seen piled on the basement floor in Chris’s home

 

 

 

The First Edition of Marshall’s Life of Washington

 

The Civil War battle Sword of Sergeant Joseph R. Balsley

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April 7, 2012

PRINTED 1678: HISTORIOGRAPHY OF TYROL

A UNIQUE EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED COPY WITH 28 MAPS AND CITY VIEWS

The Book:
Brandis, Franz Adam.. Dess tirolischen Adlers immergrünendes Ehren-Kräntzel, oder, Zusammen gezogene Erzehlung jeniger schrifft-würdigsten Geschichten, so sich in den zehen nacheinander gefolgten Herrschungen der fürstlichen Graffschafft Tirol von Noë an, biss auff jetzige Zeit zugetragen.  Gedruckt zu Botzen [Bolzano] : Bey Paul Nicolaus Führer, im Iahr 1678. ||  Second part (with special register & pagination) has half-title: Dess tirolischen Adlers immergrunenden Ehren-Kra?ntzels, anderer Thail : handlent von den fu?rstlichen Stifften Trient vnd Brixen und so dann von dem Ursprung der vier Stande der furstlichen Graffschafft Tirol.|| Allegorical frontispiece and map drawn by author; twelve (12) engraved  plates display varying numbers of coats of arms.  Description: 4to., 20 cm;  [8], 234, [2], 224, [4] p., [14] leaves of plates (2 folded); 28 additional inserted maps and plates   UNIQUE EXTRA- ILLUSTRATED COPY: In additional to the 12 engraved heraldic plates, frontis. and map called for, this copy possesses 28 (TWENTY-EIGHT) fine folding Important Maps and Town Plans, carefully inserted into the relevant text sections, the majority signed in plate by the well known Augsburg Cartographer Gabriel Bodenehr (1664-1758).   18th century Calf, worn, text-block bowed, some toning and foxing.  Provenance: Important Brandenburg  provenance including heraldic ex-libris bookplate with motto “Mein Thun und Leben ist Gott ergeben (“My acts and my life are devoted to God”).  Ref: Graesse I, 519; Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie III, 246.  VERY RARE; An ordinary edition with the 12 heraldic  plates only  appeared only 1 in 30 years of ABPC auction records.  [SOLD]

 

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