Diamonds in the Rough
The purchase of a library is exciting.
By Bruce McKinney
This past October Bonhams sold "The William H. Guthman Collection Part I" in New Hampshire. Mr. Guthman was a life-long antiquer and Antiques Road Show luminary who left ample artifacts for a new generation of dealers and collectors to fight over. Five-hundred thirty-three lots accumulated over a career were converted into $2.575 million in a few hours. Every lot sold. Almost all of the first 434 lots were arms and militaria mostly made of metal or wood and in a few cases fabric. There was then a handful of mezzotints followed by 89 lots of interest to the collector of works on paper.
The first paper lot, number 443, is proof that buyers look past descriptions for hidden value. At the auction an unnamed party, a collector of armament and the history that pertains, outbid an auctioneer to acquire "The Reference Library of William Guthman" described as 1,500 to 2,000 volumes of reference material on colonial American history, militaria, ethnography, art history, local interests, and other subjects. The price was $26,325 including commission. Shortly thereafter the buyer sold a two-thirds interest in the remainder to two partners including Eveleigh Books & Stamps of Dover Massachusetts who have already begun to describe, price and list it on line. The first items were recently posted on various sites including AE's Books for Sale. [Click here to see to Eveleigh listings using keyword GUTHMAN
Among the first items posted from lot 443 are:
Diamonds in the Rough
One example of the Guthman books
Such opportunities are uncommon, involve luck and always need to be seen first hand. Too, you can't very well ask the auctioneer if the item which sounds like a Gutenberg is really a Gutenberg. You have to understand what you are seeing, have the time, energy, means and space or as it was in this case partners with whom to divide the selling responsibilities. This deal is going to work out for all parties. According to Leigh Stein he'll be cataloguing material for the next six months. He says he hasn't found a Gutenberg yet but so far he's satisfied.
As to what else was up for sale in the category lot 448 an "Extensive collection of 26 volumes of official registers of the British Army including their involvement in North America in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution" brought $11,700 against an estimate $8,000 to $12,000. Lot 496 did better. Simply titled Indian Affairs it was two British 1780s documents relating to the Indians in the gray period when the United States was coming into being, the distinction between the United States and Canada was firming and the English pulling back. Estimated at $1,500 to $2,000 this lot brought $18,720.
All other book, manuscript and ephemera lots in this sale are accessible in the AED and are accessible here as a courtesy to AEM readers [link to the Guthman Sale].