Part III of the H.P. Kraus Library From Oak Knoll
Part III of the Reference Library of H.P. Kraus
By Michael Stillman
Oak Knoll Books has issued its third volume of books "From the Reference Library of H.P. Kraus." Kraus was the legendary New York bookseller that closed after sixty years as a local institution when Mr. Kraus' widow passed away last year. Along with a reputation for selling the most important of books in the finest condition, Kraus was noted for one of the most extensive reference libraries in private hands. When the Kraus inventory and library went on the auction block at Sotheby's last year, Oak Knoll purchased a large part of the reference material. In this as well as its previous two Kraus catalogues, Oak Knoll has been offering this material, and similar (but not H.P. Krauss) material for sale.
The greatest part of the material breaks out into two types of bibliographies, the standard type and those that catalogued famous collections. The standard type is where the author set about listing all of the books within a certain set of parameters that he could find. They may cover geographic locations, particular authors, time periods, categories such as voyages, or just about anything else. The second type covered the titles in a particular collection. Some are bibliographies of books in the collection of a particular library or other institution, while many are of certain private collections. Of the latter, most are the auction catalogues created after the collector died or chose to dispose of his collection. Most of these auction catalogues go back a long time, frequently a century or more, and there were some amazing collections which came up for sale in that era. Back before much of the best material ended up in institutional holdings, it was still possible to build collections that you would be unlikely to find in private hands today. These catalogues preserve these outstanding collections, even though the books have long since been dispersed.
The auction catalogues, though mostly forgotten today, do provide one major use for modern collectors. Their listings of the items offered for sale provide some of the best bibliographic descriptions ever written. After all, the auction houses weren't just trying to provide an acknowledgement of the books' existence. They were trying to sell them. They needed to provide great descriptions. However, as we now give a few examples from The Oak Knoll catalogue, we will focus on the more traditional bibliographies as the bibliographer had one major advantage over the collector: the bibliographer, not having to buy everything he described, could be much more complete in covering everything printed within the sphere of his bibliography.
Boucher de la Richarderie created one of the best bibliographies of early voyages, published as Bibliotheque Universelle des Voyages in 1808. This is a six-volume set of accounts of voyages from the earliest of times through the 18th century. It describes all types of books and manuscripts concerning these travels, with sections on Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and the Southern Hemisphere and Australia. Item 2199. Priced at $450.
Part III of the H.P. Kraus Library From Oak Knoll
Gaylord Albaugh produced a major bibliography of American religious periodicals on behalf of the American Antiquarian Society in 1994. The two-volume book's title is History and Annotated Bibliography of American Religious Periodicals and Newspapers Established from 1730 through 1830....This is a thorough accounting of the material, and includes listings chronologically by year of founding, by geographical origin, and by religious type. It is one of the few resources available for tracking down some of this obscure material. Item 1374. $125.
Item 2182 is a list of banned books, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, promulgated under the name of Pope Pius XII in 1948. In the days prior to Vatican II, the Church tended to wield a more heavy hand in such matters. Among those books prohibited were the Common Book of Prayer (Anglican), the complete works of Emile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre, and much of the work of Rene Descartes, Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Immanuel Kant. As one forced to read him in my college days, I can attest that Pope Pius must have been a genius to have understood enough of Kant's writing to know whether it was controversial. Certainly all of us students, regardless of faith, would have supported the Pope's decision to ban the reading of Kant. $65.
America's best-known 19th century songwriter was Stephen Foster. Many of his tunes are still popular today. Among the most famous are Oh! Susanna, De Camptown Races, Swanee River (Old Folks at Home), My Old Kentucky Home, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, and Beautiful Dreamer. In a sense he was the first American composer in that his themes were distinctively American, not imitations of European music. Sadly, while achieving reasonable success during the 1850s, fortune turned against him, and he died in a New York hospital alone and with little money in 1863, at the age of 37, with a wife and child still in his hometown of Pittsburgh. While Foster may have lacked a wealthy patron in life, he had one in death in Josiah Lilly. Lilly founded the Lilly Library in Indiana which houses, along with books and manuscripts, an enormous collection of sheet music. From 1931-1940, Lilly published the Foster Hall Bulletin, dedicated to Stephen Foster. Item 1942 is a complete run of this publication. The Bulletin speaks of Lilly's formation of his Foster collection, which unlike his other material, is now housed at the University of Pittsburgh rather than the Lilly Library. $125.
Item 2372 is an interesting piece in the puzzle of perhaps the greatest forgeries the book world has ever seen. It is the Catalogue of the Library of the Late John Henry Wrenn, five volumes published by the University of Texas in 1920. UT had purchased Wrenn's magnificent collection, and the introduction to the volumes published to describe it came from the man who helped form the collection, Thomas J. Wise. Uh oh. Wise helped Wrenn build his collection, which he liberally laced with the forgeries for which Wise is best known. Many of those forgeries found their way into this catalogue. Wrenn died in ignorance, but Wise lived to see his deception revealed. Today, Wise's forgeries, which were very good, are a valuable part of the Wrenn Library at UT, and at least this much can be said for his claims: the books he sold Wrenn truly were first editions. $1,450.
Oak Knoll Books is located on the internet at www.oakknoll.com and may be reached by phone at 302-328-7232.