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Cont. 21103 McC.
HE event of the season in the book-auction world was the closing out of the old house of Bangs & Co., which, under various names had been for many years the leading bookauction house in New York. The business and good-will were purchased by Mr. John Anderson, Jr., Bangs & Co.'s principal New York competitor in the business. The transfer took place on April 1st.
Back in the thirties Mr. James E. Cooley was a bookseller and commission merchant in New York, holding occasional auction sales of books. In March, 1837, he took into partnership Mr. Lemuel Bangs, and it was announced in the newspapers of the time that "the business will be conducted hereafter under the firm name of Cooley & Bangs." Mr. Bangs, however, seems to have induced some friends to buy out Mr. Cooley's interest, and on March 19th the advertised name of the firm became Bangs, Richards & Platt. Later changes in name were made in 1849, to Bangs, Platt & Co.; in 1852, to Bangs, Brother & Co.; in 1858, to Bangs, Merwin & Co.; and finally, in 1876, to Bangs & Co., who carried on the business until its recent extinction. At least four members of the Bangs family were interested in the business during its long history, the last owner being Mr. F. H. Bangs, a nephew of Lemuel Bangs, the founder.
Although the number of lots included in this Volume IX. of "American Book-Prices Current" is greater than that of any previous volume, an examination of the sales of the season shows that comparatively few large or important libraries have been dispersed during the period. Indeed, when we think of a great library as a collection of books which the owner has added to year by year, generally over a long period, then to be sold in its entirety at his decease, or, perhaps, during his lifetime, the number which can come into the salesroom in a single year must necessarily be very small. The majority of sale catalogues (and this must continue to be the fact, in the very nature of the case) represent small parcels or collections belonging to various
owners. The auctioneers, who look out for the owners' interests, have long ago discovered that a few good items which ought to bring the buyers together to compete, will, if buried among a lot of ordinary, uninteresting titles, generally sell for low prices. They, therefore, hold back the better class of material, oftentimes, until they have enough from various consignors to make up a sale. The name of one owner may be put upon the cover of the catalogue, thus raising it above the level of the ordinary miscellaneous sale. Again, as many of the larger buyers reside in New York, the Boston and Philadelphia auctioneers prefer to bring together the better material, which is likely to tempt New York buyers to attend in person, into one sale occupying several days and with two sessions a day, thus offering enough material in one sale to make it. worth while for the out-of-town buyers to come on. The New York auctioneers generally have but a single session a day.
Judged by the prices realized, the most remarkable sale of the season was the one held on the evening of February 6th by Mr. Anderson. This was a series of 266 lots, being books from Whittier's library, many with autograph inscriptions by their several authors, some with notes, autograph manuscripts of some of his poems, and letters to him by Emerson, Holmes, Tennyson, and others. The material was sold by Mr. Whittier's literary executor, Mr. Samuel T. Pickard, for the purpose of securing the funds necessary for the care and maintenance of the old Whittier Homestead at Amesbury, Mass. The Whittier manuscripts sold especially well, one lot, his poem, "In School Days," nine stanzas, with his letter sending it to the magazine "Our Young Folks," in which it was printed, brought $540. The draft of a message to Congress by President Lincoln, in his autograph, a single quarto page only, given to Whittier by Charles Sumner, brough $845. Some very interesting letters to Whittier by his contemporaries brought very high prices: Holmes, $230; Bayard Taylor, $102.50; Tennyson (containing four lines in verse, his epitaph on Gordon), $400, etc.
Mr. Harold Peirce, of Philadelphia, a well-known collector, sold a considerable portion of his library in three sales, conducted by Mr. Henkels, on March 6th, 7th, March 27th, 28th, and May 5th, 6th. The collection was mostly modern books, English and American. It was very full in some lines, while in others there were noticeable gaps. The series of Kelmscott Press Publications was the most complete, probably, ever offered, and included proofs and special issues of some items never before put up at auction in America. Some were presentation copies and several were of the very limited issue on vellum.
There were also complete sets of the issues to date of the Vale Press, the Doves Press, the Essex House Press, and the Daniel Press. Aside from the very complete series of these modern presses, a few items of Americana and a few early English books, the wealth of the library lay in its first editions of nineteenth century English and American authors. The series of the writings of John Ruskin and William Morris were especially full, though Keats, Lamb, the Brownings, Shelley, and others were represented by rare titles, generally in fine condition. The most notable series of any American author was that of Eugene Field. This included a copy of the famous Tribune Primer, the only copy ever sold at auction. It brought $300. This was the identical copy which sold in the French sale in 1901 for $250. It was a presentation copy. Numerous other items of the sale deserve special mention but we have space only for a word about the Poe material, belonging to Mr. William Nelson, which was included in the Peirce Catalogue. This Poe material unfortunately had been through the Paterson fire and the manuscripts and some of the most valuable books had been injured. The manuscript of "The Bells," not quite complete, brought $2,100, and that of the poem "For Annie," brought $425. The best of the books was an interesting copy of "Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems," Baltimore, 1829. This was a copy given by Poe to his cousin, with autograph inscription. He seems afterwards to have taken it back as it was the copy used by him in preparing for the press the 1845 edition of "The Raven and Other Poems," and contained corrections and alterations in his autograph, as well as notes by the printer. It was in poor condition, the leaves being loose and fire-scorched, but nevertheless it brought the great sum of $1,825. This identical copy sold in the George H. Moore sale in 1893 for $75. That was before it had been injured by fire. The other Poe items will be found entered in their place in our list.
The library of the late William D. Whitmore, of Boston, was sold by Libbie in November, occupying two sessions a day from the 11th to the 14th. The catalogue contained 2,941 lots, nearly one-half of which were genealogies, mostly American, and being without much doubt the most remarkable collection of books of this class ever sold at auction in this country. The second part of the catalogue included a series of about 150 titles of ChapBook Literature, "Mother Goose," "Goody Two-Shoes," etc., as well as some other titles of interest; also some rare American engravings and some valuable autographs.
The collection of the late Peter Gilsey was sold in three
March 18-20. The collection was miscellaneous in character, being fuller, perhaps, in the line of the drama than in other departments, though there were some very interesting Civil War items.
On April 27th and 28th, Mr. Anderson sold Part VII. of the Collection of Thomas J. McKee. Part I. was sold in 1900, Parts II. to IV., in 1901, and Parts V. and VI. in 1902. This Part VII. was largely made up of drawings, prints, playbills, and other material mainly dramatic in character, which does not find a place in our record.
The library of Edwin P. Whipple was sold by Libbie, April 7th and 8th. It was primarily remarkable for the large number of presentation copies of first editions of books of American authors, most of them given to Whipple by his contemporaries, the famous group of New England authors of the last century. Two copies of "Fanshawe," that much sought after "first book" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, were sold during the year, both in Libbie's rooms. The first, a very fine one, was sold with the library of Edwin F. Conely, of Detroit, October 28th to 30th, for $840. The second, not its equal in condition, sold with the library of John J. May, of Dorchester, Mass., January 27th to 29th, for $650. Both of these collections included numerous other good first editions of the writings of the great American authors, some being presentation copies.
The library of the late Mr. Peter Marié, mainly art works and fine bindings, was sold by Mr. Kirby at the American Art Galleries, April 3d to 8th. Another library in some respects of quite similar character was that of the late Mr. Henry G. Marquand, which was sold, with the same owner's pictures, rugs, and other art objects, in the same rooms on January 14th and following days. Many of the prices paid were phenomenal, and not a guide, by any means, to the actual value of the books.
Bangs & Co. during the season had very few sales of importance. One, made up largely of books from the library of Daniel F. Appleton, was prepared by them and the catalogue printed with their name as auctioneers, but before the sale took place Mr. Anderson had taken possession and he conducted the sale. This catalogue contained a number of items of great rarity and value, including a long series of editions of the English Bible, and editions of the Prayer Book. A copy of Coverdale's version, 1535, the first Bible printed in the English language, some leaves in facsimile, brought $3,000. The first edition of the King James Version, 1611, brought $200. The first "Edward VI." Prayer Book, 1549, with some imperfections, brought $720, and the first "Elizabeth" Prayer Book, 1559, brought $1,550.