April 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Historic NY Seminary Library Goes to Auction

The Mount Saint Alphonsus Seminary of Esopus, New York, built up by Redemptorist priests on numerous European book-buying trips and currently valued at $700,000, is about to scatter to the four winds. Of the 4,000 rare books selected for sale, 180 will be offered later this week at Freeman's in Philadelphia, including manuscripts, fifteen incunables (books printed before 1500), and books from the early presses of Aldus Manutius and Anton Koberger. More of the collection will appear in forthcoming sales this year and next.

David Bloom, book specialist and head of department at Freeman's said, "It is our privilege to offer this previously all-but hidden American collection of early European printed books and manuscripts so richly illuminating our fifteenth- and sixteenth-century heritage."

VitaChristi.jpgSome of the highlights include: a 1555 book on astronomy and astrology, heavily annotated in an unidentified sixteenth-century hand; a copy of Hieronymus, dated 1497, containing a woodcut frontispiece by Albrecht Durer depicting St. Jerome dressed as a cardinal removing a thorn from a lion's paw; a rare book on mineralogy, De Mineralibus Libri Quinque, 1519, is estimated to be one of the top lots at $12,000-18,000; and the complete first edition of Ludolphus de Saxonia's Vita Christi, 1474, (seen above) will be offered at auction for the first time since 1980.

The auction of the library is a result of the closure of the Seminary's historic campus on January 1 of last year. Proceeds from the sale will go to preserving the Seminary's archives in a new facility in Philadelphia at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann. It has been implied that the books will be better utilized in other collections.

"Every once in a while a random scholar would pass through, and we'd grant them access," the Rev. Matthew T. Allman, a Redemptorist priest in Philadelphia who is coordinating the group's heritage preservation projects, told the New York Times.