Dorothy Sloan Auction No. 23: an important sale
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Selected images from Auction No. 23
The Dorothy Sloan Auction No. 23 of Americana approaches. The sale will be on April 4th and 5th, 2013. These sales, one or so a year, are prepared with a care most associated with the skeptic. Auctions are resurrections, the always-uncertain process of reconfirmation. Fates will be decided in the rooms but this does not mean that the lawyerly Ms. Sloan will leave any information about the lots in the docket unstated. She always makes her case and it makes her a creditable advocate for sellers and a trusted source for buyers. She takes this seriously, as interested for the buyer and always makes the best case for ‘life goes on’ even as title is transferred. To do this she employs detailed descriptions, a firm starting bid and high estimate. The starting bid is her view of ‘wholesale’ and the high estimate what she believes is ‘retail’. She has been doing this a long time and is the Meryl Streep of extraordinary cataloguing, her auction catalogues always among the best of the close to one thousand that are issued each year. No. 23 is no exception.
Her sale this year, two years in the making, is a 600 lot foray, its focus on Americana with an emphasis on Texas, Mexico, California, the Trans-Mississippi West, and the Borderlands. “Maps are a strong element, including early maps of America, California as an Island, Delisle’s 1718 Carte de la Louisiane, and the first printed map to name Texas. Books of course are not over-looked. Zamorano 80 volumes and plate books as well as important Texas printings are abundant.
Condition runs the gamut from very good to excellent along with a few exceptions for material such as lot 384, an early map of Stockton, California that exists in only a few copies. For exceptional rarity Ms. Sloan will make the exception.
Befitting Ms. Sloan’s co-commitments to the past and the future the material on offer is consistently appealing and the online catalogue lush, most items illustrated with many images. The world has shifted and continues to shift but for Ms. Sloan some things never change. Her catalogues, whatever their forms, are classics at birth.
To this I’ll add two paragraphs from her explanation of the sale –
An intriguing genre of iconography for the West are bird's-eye views, which, as Ron Tyler explains at the Amon Carter Museum web site, are a much neglected source for studying history: "They appear as something between a panoramic view and a map, as though they were drawn by the artist while he was suspended in a hot-air balloon. In fact, they were drawn by hand using, most often, two-point perspective to produce a three-dimensional rendering. The city views are surprisingly accurate." Among such views, we offer Stockton (California, 1870); Laredo (1890); San Diego (1876); Mexico City during the French Occupation (1863-1864); and Colorado Springs & Pike's Peak (1890), the latter exceptionally beautiful and one of the most technically proficient examples of the medium of chromolithography. A related genre is the panorama. Present in the sale is an 1862 nine-foot panoramic 360-degree view of San Francisco from the top of Russian Hill by Gifford.
For collectors who pursue ephemera and the whimsical, some choice items are an 1842 broadside commemorating the burial of Santa Anna's leg during the Pastry War; Siler's rare illustrated pamphlet on boxing (The “Fight of the Century” printed in 1897), a rare Texas pictorial letter sheet with contemporary and illustrated vignettes (including the Alamo and camels in San Antonio during the Great Camel Experiment in the West); and two unrecorded memory games from Mexico with miniature lithographs, one teaching the history of Mexico by examining the life of Santa Anna (including a miniature litho of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto), and another game from ca. 1855-1860 intended to teach children the alphabet by use of the genre of Mexican types and costumes, illustrating occupations and pastimes such as newlyweds, drunks, pickpockets, alms givers, fandango, dentist, etc.
Here are 20 items to consider –
The auction includes about fifty pocket maps, a rare and interesting cartographical genre with a special niche in the map collecting world.
Lot 31. Wellge's exceptionally beautiful bird's-eye view of Colorado Springs & Pike's Peak in 1890, among the most accomplished examples of chromolithography in the history of the genre. ($5,000-10,000)
Lot 75. Castro's iconic illustrated album Mexico y sus alrededores, this 1863-1864 edition reflecting the short-lived Second Empire in Mexico under Maximilian and France, including Gendarmerie Mexicaine. ($10,000-15,000)
Lot 80. Catherwood's Views of Ancient Monuments (1844). A fine fresh copy of the tinted issue in publisher's original binding. “In the whole range of literature on the Maya there has never appeared a more magnificent work” - Von Hagen. ($25,000-50,000)
Lot 82. Missa Gothica (Puebla de los Angeles, 1770), Salva's superb copy of one of the most unusual books printed in North America in the 18th century. "A tour de force of graphic arts.” ($10,000-20,000)
Lot 97. Original Archive of Terry’s Texas Rangers, the largest & finest contemporary collection in private hands, including Major Benjamin Francis Weems' 1851 Navy Colt .36 caliber revolver with engraved Texas Navy naval battle scene on cylinder. ($200,000-300,000)
Lot 125. Three original sketches of Mexico by English artist Daniel T. Egerton in the 1830s. ($20,000-40,000)
Lot 176. Hernández. Rervm Medicarvm. Rome, 1651. The handsome Doheny copy of the first illustrated edition of Hernández's great natural history of the New World. ($15,000-30,000)