Category: Uncategorized

January 10, 2015

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


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.






posted in: Uncategorized

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

posted in: Uncategorized

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]


posted in: Uncategorized

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.

posted in: Uncategorized

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.


posted in: Uncategorized