Swann Printed & Manuscript Americana February 10th
An exciting attractively estimated Americana sale.
By Bruce McKinney
There is a 358 lot auction of Americana coming up on February 10th at Swann's that should provide a fair indication where pricing in the Americana mid-market is today. This sale contains an interesting combination of known and unknown material that is the stock-in-trade of serious dealers and focused collectors. And because the selection is broad rather than deep almost everyone in the field is going to find something intriguing and possibly obscure [intellectually challenging], to consider. Even if you don't decide to bid it's an interesting catalogue to read. There are 89 lots whose high estimate is $250 or less.
For the auction house it is the high ticket material that pays the bills and there are many significant lots. Lots 28 and 29 are Sauer Germantown imprints. Both are bibles. For the collector of cookery [and related subjects] there is Susannah Carter's "Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook" printed in New York, dated 1792 [lot 51] and estimated $3,000 to $4,000. There is a copy of what may be, according to Swann, the first Plymouth imprint: Robert Cushman's "The Sin and Danger of Self-Love" printed in Plymouth in 1785 where self-love was apparently not encouraged. It's estimated at $2,000 to $3,000 [lot 61]. There are 8 lots relating to the Declaration of Independence. The high spot in this group is lot 65, a copy of the Declaration of Independence rendered as a broadside, on silk engraved by Peter Maverick in 1818. It is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. Only one other copy on silk is known.
For the collector of important early American works there is a first edition of Webster's American Dictionary, printed in New York, and dated 1828 [lot 73]. It contains 70,000 entries and was considered to have surpassed Samuel Johnson's 1755 effort. Printing and the Mind of Man lists this title among its works of paramount importance.
Lot 80 is Nathaniel Morton's "New England's Memorial,..." printed in Boston in 1721. This is a good copy of the second edition of a usually unobtainable book that is a cornerstone of New England and early American collecting. It's estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. A small portion of the title page is in facsimile and should be examined.
Lots 79 to 113 are early American imprints. Many are 18th century and will fit into a broad range of American place and field collections. Many of these titles have low estimates and are otherwise difficult to obtain.
Lots 126 to 139 relate to Benjamin Franklin. A true polymath, he was a writer, printer, publisher, scientist, diplomat and politician. In this eclectic group of Franklin material you can start to build or add to an existing collection of Frankliniana. The aggregate high estimate for all 14 lots is $42,050.
Swann Printed & Manuscript Americana February 10th
Lot 65: A rare 1818 example of the Declaration on silk.
Swann offers a solution to the person going to Hawaii who wants to appear intellectual [153-163]. They are offering eleven 19th century island items [lots 153-163] and you have a choice of books in English or the Hawaiian dialect. Mahalo!
You can not cover all bases in an Americana sale without material on Indians including captivities. Lots 172 to 218 do this. There is an 1839 Brandon, Vermont imprint: Memoir of the late Rev. Lemuel Covell, Missionary to the Tuscarora Indians and the Province of Canada. The book is uncommon but, for the moment, there are three copies on ABE for comparison. They won't last [lot 175]. Swann is also offering a copy of John J. Jacob's "Biographical Sketch of the Life of the Late Capt. Michael Cresap" printed in Cumberland in 1826 [lot 186]. This book achieved $5,175 at the first Siebert sale in 1999 but just recently made a more realistic $2,115 at Freeman's. This copy is estimated $2,000 to $3,000. There are 94 Cresap records in the AED. Twenty-two of them are for this Cumberland imprint.
For those who like images there is a copy of the 1855 third octavo edition of McKenney and Hall "History of the Indian Tribes of North America" printed in Philadelphia in 1855 [lot 189]. The 120 plates are described as "generally bright and clean." This set, in all its many configurations, is always in demand and sets of this book are always disappearing as print sellers buy them to "break" them up. This set is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. At the high estimate each print costs $125.
At the high end in the "Indian" category there is "A True Account of the Most Considerable Occurances That have hapned in the Warre...", printed in London in 1675. A copy of this pamphlet brought $9,200 at the Siebert sale in 1999. This example is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000 [lot 193].
Among the excellent selection of 22 Indian captivities [197-218] are quite a few whose high estimate is $250 or less so there may be an opportunity to make some buys without breaking the bank or being scalped.
Those with an interest in Jefferson, Lewis and Clark and Louisiana Purchase material will find some gems to pick through. There is the EXTRA edition of the Boston Gazette dated Monday, Dec. 5, 1803 that carries the First Official Description of the Louisiana Purchase Territory. Imagine the excitement then. Imagine the excitement now. What then was probably a penny paper is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000.
I think now you see why we're writing about this sale. I haven't told you about even half of the material. So you'll simply need to look on Swann's site or ours. On AE it's posted as a February 10th sale. Run keyword searches to quickly identify relevant lots both in this and all other upcoming sales now posted.
For the record, Swann's Printed & Manuscript Americana is worth a closer look. It's interesting, demanding, complex and sometimes absolutely affordable.
Link to AE Auction Calendar.