On April 6, 2011 the New York Librarians and the New York Library Club had a special preview of rare books that were being auctioned by the Swann Gallery. The books being auctioned were beautiful to look at. Swann Gallery gave a copy of the auction catalog, April 7, 2011. Auction 2242 was finalized on April 10, 2011. http://catalogue.swanngalleries.com/asp/searchresults.asp?sale_no=2242&st=D
Before the description of the items to be auctioned started, I had a brief chance to look at some of the books. They were quite beautiful. Many of them had fine bindings; moroccan leather, pigskin, sharkskin, gold leaf, and silver clasps were prevalent.
The event itself was excellent. It had a different crowd because it combined both the New York Librarians Meetup and the New York Library Club. Larry Kroah, President of the New York Library Club introduced George Lowry the Chairman of the Board for the Swann Galleries.
History of the Swann Gallery
George Lowry started by giving some history on the Swann Galleries. The Swann Galleries was started by Benjamin Swann a book dealer who came across a very large collection of rare books. As a result of his find, he started an auction house. The auction house has since grown to include prints, Americana, African American books, and a variety of material which is on paper.
This particular events was in preparation for the Antiquarian book fair at the Park Avenue Armory on April 8-10, 2011 http://www.sanfordsmith.com/default.aspx?pageId=6 . George Lowry reminded us that a variety of people collect books. Many people start collecting as part of their profession or travels. He also told us that much of the bidding for books is done over the phone and the internet, not just in person.
He also told us that they used a variety of sources to put together a show including Worldcat, the ABAA-- Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and other sources. It took four months of preparation to craft this sale.
Books From the Swann Gallery
Presentation of Antiquarian Books
Christine von der Linn commented on some of the books that were being auctioned. She had a large lcd screen which she displayed the items on in addition to the books themselves which were on a table at the front of the room. She started by presenting incunabula, books that were printed before 1501.
The first book she showed was #99 http://bit.ly/i2nhjL L Orosius Paulus, Hiistoriae Adversus Paganos. It is the first universal history by a christian author. The next book was Satyrae by Filelfo. It was a popular novel by an Italian Author. The authors was satirizing the Medici. She reminded us that most books of the time were religious in nature. #39 http://bit.ly/hIpDdB I enjoyed looking at item #1, Astrolabium by Angelus Johannes. The book was in full colored woodcuts. It reminded me a little bit of Lynd Wards woodcut novels. It was a book about astrology, #1 http://bit.ly/eCCqeb
Fine Antiquarian Books
This was followed by two illustrated liturgical manuscripts. An illustrated liturgical manuscript in Dutch, #51 http://bit.ly/gmW1Bq , and an illustrated liturgical manuscript in Latin #52, http://bit.ly/gqkmzn Christine von der Linn told that most books of the time were religious in nature.
Prieres et Oraisons Devotes by Jarry Nicholas was interesting because it is a very small book with silver clasps. It looks like a book for a lady. Jarry Nicholas was the premiere calligrapher of his time. #55, http://bit.ly/hF93uN
I found #59, http://bit.ly/h1fud7 Syr Ymbrace to be fascinating. It was printed by the Kelmscott Press which was the press which William Morris ran. William Morris is known as a founding member of the Arts and Crafts Movement. What many people also do not know is that he is considered to have written the first modern fantasy novel, The Hollow Land.
Lot #57, JUSTINUS, MARCUS JUNIANUS. Warhafftige Hystorien . . . auss Trogo Pompeio gezoge[n]. German translation by Hieronymus Boner was a bit different. The book is a compilation of three different historical works commissioned to be printed as a single volume. http://bit.ly/hIUVDd
The illustartions by Walter Crane in #17, http://bit.ly/hLjGGI Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene, a Poem in Six Books with the Fragment Mutabilitie. 6 volumes bound in 3 were ornate and wonderful to look at. Walter Crane is known for his early children's book illustration. He also had a strong influence on fantasy illustration. There were several books being auctioned in the catalog by Edmund Dulac who is known for his illustrations of the Arabian Nights.
The next book that was shown was The Tarih-I Hindi Garbi (Description of the India of the West) by Francisco Lopez De Gomara. This was the book on America printed in the muslim world. It had a curious quality to the pictures. The book was printed in Constantinople which is interesting in itself. http://bit.ly/hoXT5Y
The next book, #56, http://bit.ly/fjcjN6 which was shown was a first edition of James Joyce, Ulysses, #128 of 150 copies. This was a very controversial book at the time. It is considered one of the greatest novels in english. Christine Von Der Linn said it was the finest novel ever written.
The final book which she showed us was a limited edition of The Four Gospels printed by the Golden Cockerell Press inscribed by Gill to Leonard Wolf, #46, http://bit.ly/hyO6Pl
Reception and Viewing
Afterwards there was a reception with wine, cheese, and crackers where people could talk and relax. They also gave us a chance to look at the books under the direction of Mr. Tobias Abeloff who handles incunablia and early books.
I had a chance to see some of the other books in the catalog including #112 http://bit.ly/fuBEJB A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Arthur Rackham is considered to be one of the great illustrators of fantasy and childrens books. It was wonderful to turn the pages and look at the illustrations.
This was a tremendous collection of books to see in one place. I did not get a chance to look at the Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling books. I did get to look at #61, http://bit.ly/gvwlD9 Jean De La Fontaine, De Contes et Nouvelles en Vers though.
This was very much a showing for people who loved books.
George Lowry let us know that there was a newsletter and some postcards if we wanted to take them. On the way out, I had brief conversation with Caroline Birnbaum, the Communications Specialist for Swann Galleries about the different auction houses in Manhattan and found out a bit about the magazine, International Auctioneers. He also said that the galleries are open to the public and librarians are welcome.
We also had some time beforehand to mingle a bit with other librarians. There was an interesting crowd of librarians. Afterwards we had a breakout session with the New York Librarians Meetup and talked about the Librarians Yellow Pages, book apps, ebooks, and old books. It was a very nice evening. Stephanie Gross Vice President of the New York Library Club and Organizer for the New York Librarians meetup took numerous pictures of people at the event.
It was very nice seeing Barbara Genco who works with Library Journal as well as meeting Larry Kroah, President of the New York Library Club.
The Swann Galleries is on 104 East 25th Street in Manhattan. We met on the sixth floor.