Swann Americana Sale February 2nd
An interesting Americana sale: lot 114
By Bruce McKinney
On February 2nd Swann Galleries conducts what is essentially a semi-annual auction of Americana. As was the case last year, the material is an
interesting assortment of obscurity, rarity and condition that requires the auction bidder to read carefully. There are 310 lots. Only 73 of them
have estimates that reach four figures. Sixty-six others have high estimates of $250 or less and Swann advertises their auctions on eBay where
realizations of more than $250 are uncommon but where many of the new generation of collectors are learning to collect. This sale is of course much
more than entry level lots. As the following 10 lots illustrate there is a complex assortment for almost every category of printed material for the
Americana collector. These sales typically achieve a 90% sell through, a sure indication that estimates are set toward the low side.
Lot 8 is William Bartram's Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida. This is the first English edition  and
not generally the edition collectors covet. However, this copy is in boards and that makes this copy unusual and attractive.
In the AED there are 25 records. They suggest the book has been widely reported and collected for more than a hundred years. This copy,
uncut and in original boards is estimated $3,000 to $4,000 and seems interesting.
AE Footnote 1
Lot 11 is a 1782 Aitken Bible, an important book for collectors of American bibles. It is the first printing of this book in English in America.
It lacks the title page, a very significant defect. There are other condition issues as well which require careful evaluation. The market for this
book has been strong. In the AED there are seven records. They suggest a higher valuation but this copy lacks the title page and will be
anathema to some collectors and dealers. Nevertheless it's interesting. It is estimated $8,000 to $12,000.
AE Footnote 2
Lot 28 is interesting. It's a color lithographed poster of Palo Alto and the Leland Stanford Junior University. It was issued by N. C. Carnell &
Co. in 1888. On the East Coast 1888 passes for new while in California it is old. This lithographed poster, with 7 insets including views of the
Quadrangle and maps is approximately 42x28 inches. It looks to be very collectible, a view that Swann shares as they have given it the entire back
page of the catalogue, a meaningful endorsement. It is estimated $3,000 to $4,000.
Swann Americana Sale February 2nd
Palto Alto before high tech.
Lot 66 is a volume printed by Isaiah Thomas in 1794. It is William Perry's Royal Standard English Dictionary. This is an impaired copy, lacking
the title page. Other parts of Swann's description seem drawn from emergency room dialogue including "quite worn, rear cover detached, a couple
signatures sprung, browning and scattered staining." There is a similar copy on Abe for $100 and a better one for $325. It's the third Worcester
edition. [Worcester: Isaiah Thomas, 1794] The estimate is $200 to $300.
AE Footnote 3
Lot 71 is Thomas Dobson's Encyclopaedia; or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature . . . The First American Edition. 592 (of
597) engraved plates and maps; lacks a world map from volume 7, 2 plates from the husbandry section of volume 8 and 2 plates from volume 18. 21
volumes, including the 3 volume supplement. 4to, modern 1/2 leatherette over 19th century boards; 4 text leaves lacking from volume 7 (pages
785-792), terminal 2 text leaves lacking from volume 8, directions to the binder leaf lacking in volume 11, 3 plates from volume 15 misbound at the
front of volume 16; else minor scattered foxing, staining or edge tears. Philadelphia: Dobson, -1803
Swann describes this as a scarce set of the first American edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the first encyclopedia published in America
and continues "As it was issued in parts over a lengthy period of time, sets are rarely found complete. The plates, engraved by Scott, Thackara,
Valance and others, cover a multitude of topics including natural history, geography, science, engineering and more. Indeed, some of the images --
such as the anatomical plates -- constitute the earliest illustrations on those subjects produced in America. The text is largely derived from the
third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, though it does include some original submissions by Americans, including Jedidiah Morse. The work was
printed by Dobson on American-made paper with a new type cast by Baine & Co. The title pages to each volume (except the Supplement) carry the date
1798, as they were issued after the final volume had been published."
For the book collector of early America and the 18th century in particular such material is exceptionally useful. Evans says of it "[F]rom various
causes, chief among which were, its irregular manner of publication, and the period of years required in its printing, copies of the work are
uncommonly found even in the older and larger libraries, and all have some peculiarities or defects . . . When the risks of publication are
considered, the courageous and admirable manner in which the publisher carried out the work to a conclusion, gives the name of Thomas Dobson, of
Philadelphia, a high rank in the book-publishing annals of this country"--Evans 22486.
This set is substantially complete and includes the three volume supplement. Copies show up from time to time, most of them simply a part or if a
set, usually with some issues. The estimate is $2,000 to $3,000.
AE Footnote 4
Swann Americana Sale February 2nd
The Lincoln Assassination!
A wild card in the sale is lot 108, a 200+ page manuscript journal kept by Manasseh Stow covering a six year voyage to the South Pacific, China,
California and Hawaii and covering the period 2 August 1810 to 17 October, 1816. It is lot 108. Swann describes it as "an incredible journal
detailing the sandalwood trade in the South Pacific and the natives encountered, with a residence on the Sandwich Islands during the War of 1812."
It is estimated $4,000 to $6,000. It is seems worth considerably more.
Lot 114 is a book of 52 color tinted lithographs illustrating pre-fire Chicago. A copy sold in the Laird Park sale in 2001 for $27,200. This copy
is estimated $18,000 to $22,000. Wright Howes, a Chicago book dealer and author of Howes' Usiana gave this book more than fifty years ago his next
to highest rating for rarity, a 'D'. Since then images have been at the forefront of rising value.
AE Footnote 5
Another great visual item is lot 142, a Lincoln assassination wanted poster. This one, dated April 20, 1865 offered "$100,000 Reward!" [for] "The
Murderer of our late beloved President, Abraham Lincoln." Swann describes this as "America's most famous reward poster, issued only days after the
assassination... This example does not include the rare albumen photographs of the conspirators." It is estimated $20,000 to $25,000. This printing
has been in the auction rooms regularly, almost always without the three albumen prints. Examine the records carefully if you are a
AE Footnote 6
Lot 228 is a Boston almanac for the year 1772. It includes 3 engraved illustrations that, while not signed by Revere, are attributed to him based
on "style and charges in his daybook." There are quite a few variant editions none of which are common. The estimate is $2,000 to $3,000. The
attached record sheds some light on the subject.
AE Footnote 7
Finally, there is lot 233, Thomas W. Streeter's copy of Crevecoeur's Letters From an American Farmer [London: Davies and Davis, 1782]. It is
estimated $4,000 to $6,000. The market for this book is probably between the estimates but the Streeter provenance makes it highly collectible to
AE Footnote 8
The sale takes place on February 2nd.