Swann Printed & Manuscript Americana February 10th
By Bruce McKinney
There is a 358 lot auction of Americana coming up on February 10th at Swann's that should provide a fair indication where pricing in the Americana mid-market is today. This sale contains an interesting combination of known and unknown material that is the stock-in-trade of serious dealers and focused collectors. And because the selection is broad rather than deep almost everyone in the field is going to find something intriguing and possibly obscure [intellectually challenging], to consider. Even if you don't decide to bid it's an interesting catalogue to read. There are 89 lots whose high estimate is $250 or less.
For the auction house it is the high ticket material that pays the bills and there are many significant lots. Lots 28 and 29 are Sauer Germantown imprints. Both are bibles. For the collector of cookery [and related subjects] there is Susannah Carter's "Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook" printed in New York, dated 1792 [lot 51] and estimated $3,000 to $4,000. There is a copy of what may be, according to Swann, the first Plymouth imprint: Robert Cushman's "The Sin and Danger of Self-Love" printed in Plymouth in 1785 where self-love was apparently not encouraged. It's estimated at $2,000 to $3,000 [lot 61]. There are 8 lots relating to the Declaration of Independence. The high spot in this group is lot 65, a copy of the Declaration of Independence rendered as a broadside, on silk engraved by Peter Maverick in 1818. It is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. Only one other copy on silk is known.
For the collector of important early American works there is a first edition of Webster's American Dictionary, printed in New York, and dated 1828 [lot 73]. It contains 70,000 entries and was considered to have surpassed Samuel Johnson's 1755 effort. Printing and the Mind of Man lists this title among its works of paramount importance.
Lot 80 is Nathaniel Morton's "New England's Memorial,..." printed in Boston in 1721. This is a good copy of the second edition of a usually unobtainable book that is a cornerstone of New England and early American collecting. It's estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. A small portion of the title page is in facsimile and should be examined.
Lots 79 to 113 are early American imprints. Many are 18th century and will fit into a broad range of American place and field collections. Many of these titles have low estimates and are otherwise difficult to obtain.
Lots 126 to 139 relate to Benjamin Franklin. A true polymath, he was a writer, printer, publisher, scientist, diplomat and politician. In this eclectic group of Franklin material you can start to build or add to an existing collection of Frankliniana. The aggregate high estimate for all 14 lots is $42,050.