Swann: A Challenging Sale on March 22nd.

- by Bruce E. McKinney

Heaven-hell

Lots 18 and 220, heaven and hell


By Bruce McKinney

Swann is offering, as they have on several occasions in recent years, a broad selection of collectible printed and manuscript Americana that is, for the most part, interesting but not exceptional. That said, the selection is both broad and intense. Collectors who confine their enthusiasm to lots that cost less than $1,500 will find in this sale many items to consider. This is not a selection of high points. Rather it is generally the interesting grit that every collector pursues when the estimates makes sense. For those willing to do their homework it's a great sale. Everyone will find something to consider.

Think of this sale as a smorgasbord with lots of steak if not fillet mignon. Here is a partial list of what's included: early almanac[k]s [lots 3-10, 254 and 331], 14 early bibles including a copy of the Aitken Bible [17-30], 2 items on the Burr conspiracy [43-44], a very interesting early catalogue of Matthew Carey's books [lot 50], a broadside announcing Lee's surrender [58], another broadside of Lincoln's 1863 Amnesty Proclamation [59], three lots on Captain Cook [70-72], 2 on Custer [77-78], and a copy of Doughty's "The Cabinet of Natural History." All this gets us only to lot 84. There is more.

Lot 91 is an early silk worm piece for those who collect material about the conversion of bug excretions into cash. Early American imprints block out the sun from lot 89 to 110. Benjamin Franklin is marginally included with lots 114 to 116. First editions of the two volumes of the Federalist [lot 126] are offered with an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. Indians are given their due in lots 140-144 including a copy of Adair that is both important and common enough to come up at auction frequently and to be worth bidding on when it does. Jefferson gets his requisite 5 items, none of them over-powering but you probably aren't going to be bidding on a first of "Notes on the State of Virginia" when it comes up anyway.

Americana-Judiaca is very collectible and lots 152 to 156 fill this niche. Mormons will be challenged as several of the rarest, most expensive items relate to this faith. Will buying them guarantee you a place inside the gates of heaven? We can't say. To us book collecting is ecumenical but for many a manifestation of personal faith. Certainly religious material is the most collected category, if not by dedicated collectors so much as by the personally connected. "This was my great Grand-Dad's Bible." For many this is the most emotionally satisfying type of collecting.

Agnostics and atheists will consider lot 220, "Guide to New Orleans Prostitutes." Don't plan on using it for its most practical purpose as it's the 1911-12 edition and the youngest ladies mentioned are today at least 115.

For those who are building "French Connection" collections there is a Poughkeepsie item a la "Picking your toes in Poughkeepsie." It's a Willets map of New York State that predates the 1971 movie by almost by one hundred and sixty-six years [223]. It was probably printed around 1815 and is estimated at $3,000 to $4,000.