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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.



LOCATION: Wallingford, Connecticut


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.


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.


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.”


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


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.


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



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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January 2, 2012



The Book:

John Stow; (edited and continued by) Edmund Howes . Annales, or, A generall chronicle of England. Begun by John Stow: continued and augmented with matters forraigne and domestique, ancient and moderne, unto the end of this present yeere, 1631. Londini, Impensis Richardi Meighen, 1631. FOLIO. COMPLETE. [xx], 1116 p. 32 cm. 18th Century Calf and Gilt, some soiling, corner wear spine relaid, minor marginal loss to t.p. withs some creasing, upper right marginal dampstain, some occasional minor worming. Provenance: Ex-libris Herbert Watney (1843–1932) of Buckhold, Pangbourne, Berkshire (now St. Andrew’s School) [SOLD]

This is Howe’s continuation of Stow’s famous Elizabethan Chronicle. It was issued in several editions, starting in 1610, each adding to the previous to keep it up-to-date. Howe evidently labored five years on its preparation, compiling important source material firsthand including a list of all the principle fairs held throughout England and Wales (appended). This edition is of particular interest to Shakespeare scholars as it recounts the burning of the famous Globe Theatre in 1613, noted for its performances by Shakespeare and his associates. Additionally, it provides important Shakespearean literary references and background information.
This particular additional continues up to the year 1631, including many new references. The work is considered as well to be European Americana, for it contains references to the voyages of Frobisher’s (1576, 1577 and 1578), Francis Drake (1580), and Thomas Cavendish (1586). It also includes a description of the English settlements in North America (1615), including Roanoke.

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August 21, 2011



A major character in the Purgatory section of Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy

[P Papinius Statius; Aldo Manuzio; Markos Mousouros; Giovanni Gioviano Pontano] STATIUS. [Opere.] Venice: Aldus, 1502. 3 parts, including ‘Orthographia et Flexus Dictionum Graecarum’, in one volume. Imprint from colophon. Colophon: Venetiis in aedibus Aldi. mense augusto M, DII. Includes the “Orthographia” ([40] leaves) which precedes the main work and has title: Orthographia et flexus dictionum graecarum omnium apud Statium cum accentib. et generib. ex variis utriusque linguae autorib. Printer’s device on leaf. Collation: a-e8, a-z8,A-F8, G4, A-B8, C4. [41]. [296] leaves ; 8vo., 15 cm. Dedicatory letters by Aldus Manutius to Ioannes Pontanus at beginning of the Sylvae; to Marcus Musurus at beginning of the Orthographia. 19th century full calf, hinges weak with front hinge starting, gilt dentelles, light browing to Orthographia t.p., some light stains, generally an attractive copy internally. BMC, Vol 24, p. 116 (872); Renouard, p. 35, No 7; Isaac 12781; Adams S-1670

This is the FIRST ALDINE EDITION of Publius Papinius Statius (ca. 45, Naples – ca. 96 AD, Naples), the ” Roman poet of the 1st century CE (Silver Age of Latin literature). Besides his poetry in Latin, which include an epic poem, the Thebaid, a collection of occasional poetry, the Silvae, and the unfinished epic, the Achilleid, he is best known for his appearance as a major character in the Purgatory section of Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy.” The Orthographia which opens the book, and is sometimes absent or bound the end, is a etymological dictionary of the Greek words used by Statius.


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July 19, 2011



Indian holding an arrow pointed down in a gesture of peace, with the words “Come over and help us”


[Americana] [Manuscript]  Massachusetts Bay Colony Deed on paper, dated 28 year of the reign of Lord King Charles Second the 8th of November 1676.  In Frame approx. 85 x 70 cm., out of frame 59 x 45.  Will only be shipped in frame (i.e. not rolled). Retaining the extremely rare Indian seal intact of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and SIGNED by John Leverett as governor. Provenance: Full Provenance back to the Heath and Williams  families  (who came to America in the early 1600s) provided to purchaser incl. Maj General William Heath, the famous major general in the Continental Army.  Condition as depicted.  [SOLD]

Regarding the value of this deed, I can locate no records in  30 years of the ABPC auction records,  30 + years of the records in Americana Exchange, or Heritage Auctions complete archives for a Mass. Bay Colony document that has retained the famous seal.

John Leverett was an English colonial magistrate, merchant, soldier and governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  See his full biography on Wikipedia:

The Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

In 1629, King Charles I granted a charter to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which included the authority to use a seal. It featured an Indian holding an arrow pointed down in a gesture of peace, with the words “Come over and help us,” emphasizing the missionary and commercial intentions of the original colonists. This seal was used until 1686, shortly after the charter was annulled, and again from 1689-1692. “[Ref:]

“The Indian’s inferiority is demonstrated by his lack of clothing: He is wearing nothing but a loincloth made of leaves, not unlike the wardrobe Adam and Eve were supposed to have put together after eating the apple, a biblical reference that would not have been lost on a Puritan viewer. He is shown as living in a state of almost unadulterated nature, with no housing or society depicted. There are only a couple of trees, a bow, and an arrow, implying that whatever society the eastern Indians had developed revolved around warfare. The irony of the seal is that, in fact, the English settlers generally had no interest in helping the Indians and the Indians did not want English “help.” Of course, the Indians were not in a position to impede the English settlers from achieving their vision of settling America and, as a result, the English helped themselves to the land, usually at the expense of the native tribes.  ” [Ref:]


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