Charles Heartman: Unintended Lessons
Six Hundred Pamplets, Broadsides, and a few Books written in the English Language
By Bruce McKinney
Most people will not know who Charles Heartman was. He was a bookseller. He also conducted auctions of books, manuscripts and ephemera primarily, although not exclusively, in the Americana field. He had a bookstore at 129 East 24th Street in New York and conducted the majority of his auctions at 612 Middlesex Avenue in Metuchen, New Jersey. His recorded career extended from 1913, his first catalogue, to 1952, his last. He came into the auction field when material was available and stayed until the money to purchase evaporated as the depression took hold. In the late 1930's he moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and continued to issue dealer catalogues until the end of his life. The full story of his life now sits mainly in the boxes of records and receipts his daughter gave to the University of Southern Mississippi in the 1970's. This story remains to be told.
In 1915 he issued a priced catalogue titled Six Hundred Pamphlets, Broadsides, and a few Books written in the English Language and Relating to America issued prior to the 18th century. In fact there are 606 items. It is a catalogue that can not be duplicated today. About a quarter of the items find no answering commercial references in our database of a million records.
The man was not shy about pricing and there are numerous examples of material that he priced in the stratosphere that others priced at ground level. He even managed to sometime make Dr. Rosenbach look conservative. On the other hand, many of the items in this catalogue are extremely rare if not necessarily extremely important. His rule clearly was "when in doubt, price high."
He offered "A Sermon preached before His Excellency John Hancock,..." and asked $27.50. Four years later a copy was sold in one of the Huntington dispersals for $5.50 and Lathrop Harper shortly thereafter offered a copy for $10.00. It would be 1970 before a copy would be offered at a price higher than $27.50. In 2003 Waverly sold a copy for $161. Mr. Heartman was ahead of the market.
That said, he was often "with the market." He offered a copy of the American Military Pocket Atlas  that was carried by English officers during the revolution. His copy was $40. Rosenbach offered a copy for $25.00 in 1911 and another copy went unsold at the Marshall auction in 1914 but this did not deter him from offering his copy for a higher price. Goodspeed's, in 1928 offered a copy for $50 and it would be three decades before the asking price would reach $100 [Eberstadt]. Auction realizations today run between $10,000 and $15,000. He was right but he was early.
Generally the material in this catalogue isn't found for sale on the net so it's interesting to find Richard Alsop's "A Poem; sacred to the Memory of George Washington," and published in Hartford, available three times on ABE and all for the same price of $200. Mr. Heartman would have sold you his copy for $6.00.
Charles Heartman: Unintended Lessons
Lot 358, the most expensive lot in the catalogue.
An interesting item is the Benedict Arnold broadside "A Representatation of the Figures exhibited and paraded through the Streets of Philadelphia,..." Mr. Heartman's copy was $150. Two years later Dr. Rosenbach offered one for $135. That's the last copy we show in the AED. This looks like a case of "going, going, gone."
Mr. Heartman's "Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York" in 1767 is priced at $150. Years before , the Brinley copy sold for $3.88 and Rosenbach had since catalogued it for $50 in 1911 and 1913 and would offer it again in 1917 for the same price. Into this drumbeat of offers Mr. Heartman offered his for $150, a price for which you could have bought the Lathrop Harper and Goodspeed copies together twenty-five years later for only $5.00 more.
His copy of Joel Barlow's "The Vision of Columbus" was about right. He priced it at $12.00. The Brinley copy had brought $12 and Goodspeeds offered a copy for $10.00 in 1917. However, by 1930, with the depression setting in Mr. Heartman now offered a copy that was inscribed "The Gift of General Washington to Mrs. Bache, September 18th, 1787." (One day after the adoption of the Constitution by the Federal Convention). He priced this book at $675. Who is to say he was high.
He offered a copy of the second edition of Thomas Church's "The entertaining history of King Phillip's War,...", printed in Newport in 1772 for the price of a Model T [$400] and did not live to see Scribner undercut him 41 years later by $250. In the era before databases you could price for a particular customer or category of customers. Today, although some dealers still do this, serious buyers do their homework and avoid this type of over-pricing.
His copy of Cadwallader Colden's "The Conduct of Cadwallader Colden,..." was also very overpriced at $150. If fact he set the high mark. It's undoubtedly very rare as no other copy appeared in the AED until 1967 in the Streeter sale [lot 873] when a copy sold for $100, 2/3rds of what Mr. Heartman was asking 52 years earlier.
"A Conference between the Commissaries of Massachusetts-Bay and the Commissaries of New-York...." was offered for $200. Today it is a Howes "b." The Heartman copy mentions a broadside after page 26. If this is a separate item, and no other descriptions mention it, that's a significant addition. Not to be out-done Rosenbach offered a copy for $325. Goodspeed's offered one for $140 in 1925 after which the price meandered lower until the Eberstadts offered one for $350, just a year after Goodspeeds catalogued a copy for $75. These copies differ substantially. The Heartman copy may have been the best deal if it included the broadside.
A copy of John Cotton's "God's Promise to his Plantation" printed in 1630 was offered for $500. In 1934, in the Terry Sale and deep into the depression, a copy of this book still brought $250. In the Streeter sale in 1967 the price moved well ahead -- to $1,700. On this one Heartman seemed to have it right.
Charles Heartman: Unintended Lessons
Thomas Paine, now as then, highly collectible.
A Declaration and Remonstrance of the distressed and bleeding Frontier Inhabitants was overpriced at $150. In fact, for more than eighty years no one had the nerve to ask so much. In 1930 he raised his price to $350. Rosenbach saw it in 1913 and again in 1917 as a $45 book. Even as late as the Streeter sale it achieved only $130. Not until the Frank Siebert sale in 1999 did this pamphlet breakout-- achieving $4,025.
He was absolutely right about the Louis Evans essays and accompanying map issued in 1755. His price was $150. Copies sold at both the Frank Siebert and Laird Park sales in 1999 and 2000 sold for $112,500 and $126,750 respectively. Whoever bought his copy, so long as they kept it, did fine.
He also asked $150 for Grotius' "Pills for the Delegates...," printed in 1775 --a piece that defends General Gage and attacks Peyton Randolph. Since we see no copies since we'll trust it was a reasonable deal.
He offered Alexander Hamilton's "A full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress,..." printed in 1774. Other copies have come and gone for less but this one contained corrections in Hamilton's hand. He priced it at $350 and whoever has it is very lucky.
One of the most expensive items in the Heartman catalogue is a pamphlet by Catherine Macaulay titled "An address to the People of England, Scotland and Ireland." Printed in 1775 it is the second edition but has the manuscript notes of Theodore Roosevelt. Heartman priced it at $550. Howes later described this piece as an 'a' so the high premium was for the ex-President's notes. Mr. Roosevelt died in 1919. It seems high.
So what can we say about this catalogue? The first is that pricing rare material is an uncertain enterprise. Some dealers price according to their client's ability to pay while others price according to market records. Mr. Heartman seems to have been an optimist and in some cases simply too optimistic. But if he had clients willing to pay his prices he can hardly be faulted for charging them. Then there is the subject of discounts. I don't know what arrangements he offered. His prices have the feel of being discountable in their time.
Finally, he relied on a relatively short list of bibliographical sources to document his inventory. Sabin is most consistently quoted. Church, Stauffer, Evans, Stevens, Dexter, Hildeburn and Trumbull are also mentioned. Priced records are not. He understandably steered clear of records that were inconsistent with his pricing. So we can say that experience, research and judgment on the buyer's part was very important then just as it is very important now. Know what you are buying and why. It was good advice in 1915 and remains good advice today. Today of course there are extensive priced records. In the AED alone there are more than 800,000 of them of which this catalogue is 606.