Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2021 Issue

A Collecting Approach born of Today’s Possibilities


Over the past 60 years I’ve been acquiring material related to Ulster County, New York and over the decades have found increasing opportunities to acquire early source documentation.  Such discoveries are beyond random and tend to come up as boxes of unsorted records, sometimes as few as 30 items and in other cases tens of boxes and thousands of examples.  They represent concentration and tend to be highly specific and illuminate day to day realities that were often more difficult than printed accounts of local history suggest.  Life has always been complicated and how individuals and organizations acted and adjusted gets into the muscle and sinew of history.  That such accumulations are available tends to beggar even the most optimistic imagination.  That Ulster County, a tiny fraction of a tiny slice of the book, manuscript, map and ephemera market can be found in the electronic weeds, is testament to today’s one-world embracing search technologies.   For collectors and collecting institutions possibilities for concentration create opportunities to better understand the past.  What matters are your conceptual approach, financial resources, internet connections and research services you use.


Some years ago I was offered the records of a Hudson River ferry business that ran between the years 1869 to 1894.   Initially the company made a regular run from Peekskill to New York City but subsequently found competition too strong.  In time they switched their service to regularly run from Peekskill to Poughkeepsie, Milton, Marlborough, and Newburgh.  In time that strategy too encountered a new factor when the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge crossing the Hudson River opened in 1888, offering cargo and passenger options, that ran year round while boat service closed because of ice for 3 to 4 months most years.  What was shipped and delivered tells a fascinating story.


As well, twice during the past decade I’ve bought business records of the Lake Mohonk Hotel located, near New Paltz.  Altogether, I’ve acquired thousands of files relating to the array of services the founding Smiley family have organized and offered over their 150 years of stewardship of their patch of God’s handiwork on the Shawangunk ridge.  Of what could have simply been a marvelous hotel they created a business imbued with high moral purpose.  That story emerges in their day to day records. While I probably own many if not most of the books written about Mohonk, these underlying documents tell a better and more complex story.


As well, I have bought a significant portion of the early records of New Paltz’s oldest financial institution, the Huguenot Bank. Their shareholder records and Board of Directors’ meeting notes show how they managed through success and failure.  In the later years covered in those records, there are references to people I knew growing up in New Paltz in the 1950’s and 1960’s and never understood their roles in the community.


As well I acquired a portion of the records of the New Paltz Fire Department, ca 1880 – 1907, quite by chance when eBay was still a useful marketplace.  An inexperienced seller both under described and under-estimated the significance of fire department’s daily journal and sold it for about $200.  This journal includes the fire department’s notes about the burning of the Normal School in 1906. 


As well, I’ve acquired what appears to be most of the business records of a hardware store in Saugerties in northern Ulster County covering  the period 1865 to 1940.  In the later 19th century this business found ways to develop supplier relationships primarily based on their access to the boats running on the Hudson River down to New York City  and north to Albany and Troy.  In time their vendor list expanded as transportation options increased.  Into the mid-1930’s they appear to have maintained relationships with as many as 400 suppliers.  As well, I have their day books accounting for roughly 25,000 days of transactions accounting for more than a million purchases.  The details are tedious but interesting.  In some cases there appear to be highly detailed orders relating to the building of specific buildings.  The historically minded, me thinks, would enjoy to have access to their building’s deep historical details expressed in the builder’s and architect’s orders placed with their hardware store.


As well I have acquired 45 Ulster County documents from a single source, dated between 1699 into the early 19th century including an appealing contemporary note related to the burning of Kingston by the British in 1777.  Such documents come up in fits and starts at one or another of the many local auctions. There is no saying what and when.  You watch over a decade and they appear.


Such documents and archives hang around un and under-appreciated.  Given their scale and complexity few think of them as local history’s primary documentation.  I do.


As well, I must mention the local paintings.  While the archives, diaries, directories and documentation is extraordinary local paintings are entirely a different beast.


Ulster County is the subject of many works by important painters.  Shelves of documents only carry collecting enthusiasm so far.  When the occasional painting illuminates a local subject, as I have for Lake Mohonk, 3 paintings capture the feeling these places engender.  Two are painted by Daniel Huntington and the other is by Worthington Whittredge.  And for the well documented scenes that were never painted before, there is Len Tantillo who has been painting Ulster County Reimagined and recently published a book of his life’s work.


There is a deep interest in how the world that was has become the world we live in today.  As we understand how life has evolved I have no doubt we’ll also see the future.


Here is a link to Mr.Tantillo's book at Amazon if you would like to buy a copy.  As well, he and his work are the subject of an exhibition at The Albany Institute of History & Art [January 27 - July, 25, 2021].  For details it is called A Sense of Time.



Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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