Category: RARE BOOK APPRAISAL

October 31, 2019

Appraisal of an 18th century Book – unusual provenance

So, I’m just back from a trip up to Westchester, NY where I bought several boxes of antiquarian volumes that belonged to a prominent lawyer.

One of the volumes fresh out of the box is a copy of Jean Louis de Lolme’s
The Constitution of England, or an Account of the English Government; In Which It Is Compared with the Republican Form of Government, and Occasionally with the Other Monarchies in Europe. Printed in London by  T. Spilsbury and Sold by G. Kearsley, in 1775.

I love Constitutional law, especially anything printed around that magical year of the American Declaration.  This volume was a frequently reprinted (I have had several copies over the years), but it still is an important work that influenced many of the framers of the United States Constitution.

A quick physical  inspection of the book (as seen in the photos below) shows that it is bound in it original 18th century marbled boards.  Unfortunately, the spine is rather dry and worn, but to its credit, the pages are what we call “uncut” – which is a heartwarming word to rare book dealers and collectors who appreciate original condition.

A quick review of the auction databases on sites such as RareBookHub, reveal a rather depressing state of affairs.   A copy of this First English edition sold for $23.50 in 2014 at auction.   I have to retype that for emphasis as it is quite unbelievable to type even.  $23.50!!  Can you imagine an an interesting 18th century work being sold for the price of a few lattes at Starbucks?  It shows that not everything old is gold.

The prices of retail copies is a bit more reassuring.  On sites like ViaLibri, one can find ranges for the book (or at least similar editions) from about $200-900, depending on the exact edition, condition etc.   With that said, there appears to be several copies circulating in commerce, and it is getting harder and harder to sell books of which several copies can be found online at the touch of a few buttons.

This particular copy has some redeeming aspects which I believe raise the value and its desirability – and as a rare book dealer,  it is my passion and job to discover and highlight them.   First, it has a lovely  late 18th century bookplate of CHAINED MONKEYS.  That is enough charm to win over my heart.   A quick Wikipedia search and wee can se that it is the ex-libris of St Andrew St John, 14th Baron St John of Bletso PC FRS (22 August 1759 – 15 October 1817), an English politician who sat in the British House of Commons from 1780 until 1806 when he inherited a peerage.  So, this copy  of a  influential work belonged to a politician during the year that America wrote her Constitution in 1783.   Very cool indeed, but generally even that provenance is not sufficient in the market today to substantially raise the value of the copy – albeit, we are building an interesting story around the book.

However, it gets better.   When I read through the inscriptions in ink on the following page, they contain a very unusual and remarkable record:  the book appears to have been passed AMONG WOMEN READERS and women readers alone.  It contains such jottings in an old hand as “1776   Mrs. Stephenson received this Book Nov 5 || Miss Manley sent this book to Lady Robinson”  The list continues for about 15 lines as the book was clearly circulated among the 18th century  aristocratic women, who perhaps were keenly interested in Constitutional law given the regular news of the increasingly tumultuous state of affairs in America.  The list of names requires additional investigation, but I have not seen a similar list in any book that I can recall handling.

So, overall despite being a relatively common work in commerce, and well represented in various institutions in its many editions, this particular copy is very interesting and unusual.    Its boards are a bit dry and the spine could use some restoration, but generally I would say this is a work that I would be able to price in the $500 range and find some institutional interest from  a special collections that focuses on  women studies or more generally a law library.

If you have any rare books or manuscripts and would like a free evaluation, don’t hesitate to send photos buy email to webuyrarebooks@gmail.com or by text to 646-4691851.

 

Where to sell rare book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

posted in: 18th century book value, Constitution value, Early English Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL

July 11, 2018

Appraisal of a Rare Early English Book – How much is my 17th century book worth?

I am a very active buyer of early English books and tracts from the 1500s  through the 18th century.

I recently received this interesting 17th century work  – Walter Cradock’s “Gospel-libertie: in the extensions limitations of it.”

One of the difficulties of buying a rare book like this from private person or family, is making a fair evaluation and offer.  After all, somebody who has inherited a book or library, may not have a full sense of the value of their book or collection.  They may also have high expectations-  as many people reasonably would for a book that is 370 years old!

In such circumstances, a rare book dealer should try to be as transparent as possible.  Usually, one is not dealing with unique works of art, but rather with books – even rare ones – that have nevertheless sold previously and for which their are comparable examples in the auction records.  I am always happy to supply such comparables from databases such as Rare Book Hub or the American book prices current etc. for books that are emailed or sent to me.

So, what is  this 1648 copy of  Gospel-libertie worth?  When considering this important question, one has to consider many aspects the book.

1) It’s rare: According to Rare Book Hub, no copy has been offer for sale at auction since it appeared at  Sothebys in 1994 (albeit in a group lot for GBP 1,265). That is a plus.

2) It’s interesting: The author, Walter Cradock, was an unflinching advocate of  liberty of conscience. Some considered him a Puritan dissenter or a radical troublemaker (who doesn’t like books by troublemakers?). A reading of the work shows he was no doubt influenced by the religious upheaval of the English Civil War as well as the early preaching of the Gospel in the new English colonies.   As an early work that  promoted religious liberty,  it resonates with modern readers. All good.

3) It’s charming:  Wrapped in old paper boards and with a 19th century (or earlier) string holding the loose signatures together, it certainly has some vintage charm and visual appeal.

4) Nevertheless, it is (at least for serious collectors) in poor condition.  The text block is broken, some pages are detached and internally, it has had its fair share of the ravages of time.  Frustratingly, it is also lacking a single page of the table at the end (underscoring the importance of properly ‘collating’ a book and verifying its completeness).

Therefore, despite its intellectual appeal and even the visual authenticity of book that survived great upheavals, it is a book probably only worth $250 or so – and even at that only to the right customer ready to overlook its flaws (something that is as hard to do in the dating world as in the world of selling antiquarian books 😉
If you have an early English book, and you would like a free evaluation, feel free to send photos to webuyrarebooks@gmail.com or text them to 646 469 1851.


Adam Weinberger, Member ABAA
Rare Book Buyer
1510 Lexington Ave 9D
NY, NY 10029
(646) 469 1851
Note:  By Appointment Only

posted in: Early English Books, NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL

November 28, 2017

Appraisal of a Colored Plate Book : Auction vs. Retail comparison

We recently purchased a lovely copy of  Smith’  Antiquities of Westminster published in Folio 1807.  Nevertheless,  a glance through the auction records reveals very modest prices.  Perhaps this is partly explained by a lack of connoisseurship.  Years ago,  there were more perhaps more appreciative everyday collectors that delved into the nitty gritty of printing history. Indeed, the book is recorded (see plate on p. 48 below) as being the first use of lithography in an English  book (cf. Lithography: 200 years of art, history & technique, NY, 1983, p. 224)

The other colored plates below – engraved and hand colored by comparison- also possess a remarkable charm.  The shattered specimens of stained glass from St. Stephen’s Chapel have an explosive and modern aesthetic, and are beautifully rendered by John Thomas Smith.    The shards, among with wall paintings and sculptures,  were discovered during a restoration of Westminster in 1800 that revealed part of a 14th century wall.   The author was very eager to record these discoveries for posterity before they were lost again to time.

So, like the glass, it is shattering to see that a copy at auction in 2016 at Dominic Winter only achieved a paltry 84 GBP! (approx $120).  This compares to a retail copy on line marked at $1200.  That is quite the disparity – a full 1000% between what a copy achieved at auction and what a book dealer (and colleague)  is asking for it.

Perhaps, a not unreasonable retail price (if one indeed wishes to sell it within some reasonable time frame) is no doubt somewhere down the middle at $500-600, but still, the beauty of the book and its significance to book illustration and English antiquarianism, does support a retail price at the higher end in my mind.

If you have a fine book with colored plates, I am happy to evaluate it – just send photos to our email address or text them to 646 469 1851.   Do kindly remember that the value of colored plates books is very sensitive to condition, and it is best to include photos of any defects such as foxing or browning.

 

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Colored Plate Book Value

 

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posted in: RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Book Auction Value, Rare Colored Plate Book

August 26, 2017

Rare Book Auction Prices vs. Retail Prices

I am often asked “What is this antique book worth?”   The adage that “something is worth what someone will pay” is not a satisfactory or helpful answer.   In the antiquarian book world, when giving a professional opinion of value, it is often helpful to consult actual action records in the databases for comparable copies that have sold, as well as other retail copies on the market (primarily through collectible and out of print book search engines like Abebooks.com).  It is also particularly important to assess the actual copy of the work at hand to look for any distinguishing characteristics that can increase the value such as provenance, binding, condition etc.

Here is a copy of a work I was recently asked to evaluate.  The book is an 1810 copy of Henry Fuseli’s Lectures of Paintings.   Fuseli’s style had a considerable influence on many younger British artists, most importantly William Blake.

When examining the auction records, one can easily find that a copy sold at Bloomsbury Auctions  in London 2013 for 69 GBP.  Certainly that can be used as a benchmark evaluation for the book since that is an actual sales price.  Perhaps if this copy went into auction, it would receive only scant attention from buyers and a cursory examination,  and achieve a similar price.

Nevertheless, the book appears increasingly scarce in commerce.  There are no copies at present listed on the major book search engines for purchase at the touch of a button.  This gives one, as they say in retail,  some pricing power (at least some limited pricing power as it assumes demand).

What is lovely about this book is that there is an  engraved vignette at end (“Ancora imparo: Mr Angelo Bonarroti”) by Blake.  This engraving directly  links two of the world’s greatest artists:  Blake and  Michelangelo. In a Blake Dictionary, S. Foster Damon writes that  “Michelangelo was to Blake’s painting what Milton was to Blake’s poetry.”   To a buyer that may be unfamiliar with Fuseli’s book,  the possibility to own an original Blake engraving at modest cost – and one that depicts his own  interpretation of the image of Michelangelo-  certainly raises interest in the book.

Additionally, this copy features a rather fascinating  “CLD”  in gilt on the black morocco spine (in attractive contract with the earthy pebbled marbled papers).  The CLD ares the initials of  Caroline Lucy Scott, Lady Scott (1784–1857), the Scottish novelist.   A known 18th century woman writer’s provenance is quite interesting, and I don’t recall seeing a similar placement of initials or a monogram on the side of a spine of a book,  perhaps a parallel to the way a monogram might be placed on the clasp of a diary.   It makes a delightful example of a bookbinding and personal ownership and that certainly raises the value in my eyes.

It would therefore not be inappropriate, given its scarcity in commerce and the attractiveness of this particular example, to put a price of $450 on it.  Whether someone will pay that is, as always, another story.

 

rarebookauction - 1Rare Book Auction

posted in: RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Book Auction Value, Rare book auctions, sell rare books, selling rare books, We buy Rare Books

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