February 14, 2016
As a New York City rare book dealer, I get a constant stream of calls from around Manhattan. It seems that the apartments here, while not overflowing, still are able to produce a constant flow of interesting and rare material. I just today purchased this interesting 17th century medical work from a local picker.
Richard Morton. Pyretologia, seu, Exercitationes de morbis universalibus acutis Londoni : Impensis Samuelis Smith …, CIC DC XCII  8vo, 19.5 cm., , 430,  pages,  folded leaves of plates (present but loose) Binding: 17th century English calf, wear to head and foot of pine and starting of front joint; internal;t some toning, still a pleasing copy of a rare 17th century English medical work. Ref: Wing M2832; NOT in Garrison-Morton or Waller.
So, how much is this old book worth?
This is the type of work that I really enjoy buying – a scarce and attractive 17th century work that is not fully appreciated by the auction records. Indeed, while it is uncommon in commerce, in 2000 a copy at Swann Galleries barely made $230- a rather trifling sum for such an interesting work. It is quite unfortunate, that with the transparency and widespread availability of auction records, a poor sales record for even a single copy can often set a unfair ceiling on what many collectors will pay- a sort of Scarlet A[uction record] that hangs on the neck of the book. Nevertheless, a modest profit on this type of work can be made when properly cataloged and offered to the right appreciative collector or Institutional library.
Indeed, this is a fascinating work. The author, Richard Morton (1637–1698), was an English physician “who was the first to state that tubercles were always present in the tuberculosis disease of the lungs.” according to the oft quoted Wikipedia. Digging deeper, however, into this modest book on fevers, Morton presents himself as a firm advocate of Peruvian bark as an antidote, proclaiming its “Herculean” properties to cure fever. While not understood at the time, the reason was that the compound quinine occurs naturally in the bark of Cinchona trees.
Of even greater historical but related interest are Morton’s remarks on the sudden death of Oliver Cromwell, who died of an intermittent fever as his physicians (in Morton’s view) were too timid to make use of the bark. What would have happened had Cromwell not have died, passing his reigns to his ineffective son Richard who failed in his attempt to carry on his father’s role as leader of the Commonwealth. Only nine months later, the Monarchy was restored. Just imagine how a little bit of tree bark could have changed the course of human history!
posted in: NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, sell rare books, selling rare books, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books
January 14, 2016
I was recently offered this handsome and rare specimen of liturgical printing. Such books are often typographical masterpieces and are important in the history of printing and well as the history of music. This Gradual contains all of the musical items in the Mass and was printed in 1681 for the Royal Abbey of Montmartre.
The Abbey of Montmartre was a important center of intense religious life and a place of pilgrimage for centuries, and this Gradual in many ways served as a focal point of services and that devotion. Interestingly, in the early 17th century an ancient crypt and staircase was discovered at the Abbey that was said to have been sanctified by Saint Denis and caused a sensation with Marie de Médicis and 60,000 people visiting. The Abbey was sadly torn from the waiting hands of posterity when it was destroyed in the French Revolution.
The Gradual itself is very rare with Worldcat listing only the copy at the Lyon Public Library (Bibliothèque jésuite des Fontaines). Additionally, there are few comparables in the auction records and no copy of this Gradual is listed in the rare book auction databases (ABPC or RareBookHub) for over 30 years.
So, what is at the value of a very rare and beautifully printed specimen of 17th century music printing worth? With no exact comparables in the records, a rare book dealer must rest his opinion solely on experience and connoisseurship. As such, I would look to the prices I have obtained for other 17th century Graduals of lesser rarity and interest perhaps, but similar typography and age. I must also evaluate the condition and while the example here is internally in admirable shape, the binding is a bit later (18th century from its general appearance and marbled paste-downs) with the mottled calf a bit dry and the spine and hinges worn from use.
As such, I would place its retail value at approximately $1200.
Graduel romain-monastique de l’abbaye de Mont-Martre, ordre de S. Benoist. S.l. : s.n., 1681 4to., 24.5 x 19 cm. 18th century calf with wear, wear to hinges and and spine as depicted, hinges held by binding strings, some creasing to preliminary leaves, some light toning, but generally a very good copy copy of a Very Rare gradual and a superb typographic specimen. No copies appear in the standard rare book auction databases for more than 30 years,
posted in: NYC Rare Book Dealer, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, selling rare books, We buy Rare Books
March 18, 2015
Many times I am asked to value a rare book and am forced to gently explain to the owner (who may have seen a complete copy online or at auction at a high price) that an incomplete copy is worth a very small fraction of the value of a complete work. The expectation is often that if a book is just missing a page or two, then the price would be affected somewhat, but still within reason. More often than not, that is not the case however and the price is actually drastically affected. Part of the reason no doubt is that while many collectors buy rare books of interest to them, they do keep an eye as well on their investment potential and future resale value. Buying rare books is one thing and selling rare books is another. It is often very hard to get future buyers to pay thousands of dollars for a book- even a very rare one- that is described in an apologetic tone with words such a “lacking” or “missing” or “wanting” (the preferred marketing euphemism of booksellers).
Nevertheless there are always exceptions to the rule, and sellers and owners are advised to consult a rare book expert even if their work is incomplete.
A couple weeks ago I was offered an incomplete book- a 1563 first edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs- or the Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church. This was one of the most influential books of the 16th century, published early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Here are a couple photos of the large thick folio- a testament to one of the most complex printings of the period.
It can immediately be seen when opening the book that it lacking the title page- indeed a closer inspection and study reveals that it is actually lacking the title, frontispiece, and last leaf. It is equally true that despite their age most books of the 16th century, if found in a similar state, only fetch modest prices at auction.
This is not the case for Foxe’s Book of Martyrs however. A search of the ABPC auction database as well as the RareBookHub indicate that there have not been any complete copies sold at auction in the last 30 years of records. In fact, as one searches further back in time, it s clear that the popular book was often read to death and complete copies are virtually unheard of in commerce. As far back as 1907, a rare book catalogue found in Google Books offers an imperfect copy for 80 sterling and adds to justify the price that “no absolutely perfect copy is known.” That may be an exaggeration or marketing ploy of an eager turn of the century bookseller, but it nevertheless indicates how rare complete copies are. As such, despite its imperfect state, the book remains both valuable and highly desirable.
In any case, an incomplete work is better than a non-existent copy. The woodcut below, inserted at p. 1548 in Foxe’s Book, shows the fate that befell many books including being burned in a pyre. We have to be thankful that some works survived at all and, like many things in life, learn to forgive and be tolerant of imperfections.
posted in: RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, sell rare books, selling rare books, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books
February 15, 2015
A brief note as we are a NYC Based company but get a lot of enquiries from the UK regarding evaluating and possibly purchasing important rare books, manuscripts and entire libraries.
Q: Do we purchase books in the UK and can we visit?
A: Absolutely. We have a UK representative that is happy to make house calls for important rare books and manuscripts. As always, it is first very helpful to send photos of the books and manuscripts you would like evaluated for free or wish us to consider for purchase. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. For books located books in the UK, kindly put “attn: Robert” in the subject to receive a quick reply and evaluation.
posted in: Rare Book England, Rare Books London, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books