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Library of Congress Acquires Trove of Letters from Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

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Mexican Imprints & Manuscript Material Leads Swann Americana Auction

New York -- Swann Galleries’ Tuesday, April 16 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana... read more

Bodleian Libraries Collaboration with Herzog August Library Brings Rare German Manuscripts to Life

Oxford, England - The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and the German library, Herzog... read more

Hebrew Incunabula and Fine Judaica Coming up at Kestenbaum & Co.

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21st Editions to Premiere Deep Roots Art Object at AIPAD

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Christie's Displays a Magnificent Royal Mamluk Qur'an in Dubai Ahead of Auction

London - Ahead of the auction in London on 2 May, highlights from the... read more

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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Lost Everything? Have a Martini.

An African-American First

Wheatley’s Poems, Swann Galleries New York ($14,400) & Sotheby’s London ($17,440).

Poems on Various Subjects, religious and Moral, by Phyllis Wheatley, is the first book of poetry by an African-American and the first book of any kind by an African-American woman. Since Swann of New York began holding annual African-Americana sales in 1996, copies have made fairly regular appearances and the February 26 sale proved no exception.

A Senegalese born slave, Phyllis was educated in the household of her Boston owners, John and Susanna Wheatley, who encouraged her desire to write poetry. Wheatley had a number of poems printed in Boston papers, but so ingrained was the American idea that no African was capable of learning, let alone producing a whole book of verse, that it had to be published in England, where her cause was taken up by the Countess of Huntingdon. Even then it was necessary to provide an attestation from 18 of Boston's finest (John Hancock among them) assuring potential readers that “the young Negro girl, who was but a few years since an uncultivated Barbarian from Africa...has been examined by some of the best judges, and is thought qualified to write them.”

Jefferson dismissed her work as “below the dignity of criticism,” but others were more generous and today the 1773 London first highly desirable.

The Swann copy, in period full calf and bearing a tiny stamp that reads “Bequest of Leonard Kebler to Library of Congress, 1861” on the rear pastedown, disappointed in selling at $14,400, but while the $20,000-$30,000 valuation was doubtless influenced by the $39,100 bid taken for a copy in 2006, that one was signed. The engraved frontispiece, incidentally, is the work of Scipio Moorhead, a Boston slave who was both artist and poet.

Going Green

Golf Course Planner, PBA Galleries San Francisco, $14,400.

The year’s first specialist golf sale at PBA Galleries in San Francisco (February 26) confirmed that scarce works on golfing architecture, or course design, are currently much in demand. Modestly describing itself as containing Arthur Warren Tillinghast’s ‘Suggestions’ on Planning a Golf Course, an illustrated 24-page booklet, circa 1917, is one of real rarities.

The Creator of Golf Courses by Goodwin & Wolffe, an account of the life and times of “Tillie,” found on a website devoted to this US pioneer, tells us he was “the spoiled son of a wealthy Philadelphian [who] grew up doing exactly as he pleased and never finished a single school he attended. Like many other men of his class and time, he was a prodigiously heavy drinker, and the Tillinghast legend contains accounts of long binges, epic parties, lavish spending, and pistol-flourishing rages. He was a spellbinding talker, a flashy dresser, and a good hand at the piano. His trademark was a magnificent waxed moustache.”

Tillinghast was also a passionate golfer who had played at St. Andrews with old Tom Morris and other legendary figures, and in 1908 he started a column for The American Golfer under the pseudonym “Hazard.’’ Then in 1909, at age 34, he received his first commission to design a course, at Shawnee-on-Delaware in Pennsylvania, and by the time his little booklet appeared he was nationally recognized. Over a lifetime he designed over 100 courses.

The name Peterson, Sinclaire & Miller Inc. of New York is stamped to covers, so neatly that it appears to be part of the title, and this established golf course construction company may well have played a part in the booklet’s publication. In January 1916 the firm began publishing a monthly bulletin called The Golf Course, to which Tillinghast was a contributor.

One of only two—of just four recorded—copies still in private hands, it sold at $14,400.

Manet’s Raven

Mallarmé Translation of Poe Classic, Bloomsbury Auctions London ($28,595)

Illustrated by Edouard Manet, a limited edition version of Edgar Allan Poe’s Le Courbeau (The Raven), published in Paris in the mid-1870s, was a remarkably modern work for its time. The text was printed both in English and in a French translation provided by the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, while Manet’s principal contribution ran to four transfer lithographs. The work also included a lithographed ex-libris leaf featuring the raven. In a copy seen at Bloomsbury Auctions London on February 26, this raven design was repeated in black (what else?) on the covers of the later vellum binding by Georges Cretté, as indeed it had been on the original vellum wrappers.

Richard Lesclide, the publisher, had also planned to issue an edition of Mallarmé’s translation of The City in the Sea, but despite being quite modestly priced at the time, his limited edition of Le Corbeau (The Raven) was a commercial failure and that idea was quickly dropped.

One of 240 copies, signed by both Manet and Mallarmé, the example in the Bloomsbury sale was part of the James & Eugenie Beall collection of livres d’artistes. It sold for £20,400 ($28,595), but as long ago as 1990, the Bradley Martin copy, which was still in the original Japanese vellum wrappers and was inscribed by Mallarmé to a M. Pétian, sold for $25,300 at Sotheby’s New York. Then in 1995, in the same rooms, a later copy in a morocco binding by P.L. Martin, with those original vellum wrappers bound in, reached $29,900.

Salerooms tend to use the same sample illustration whenever well known books come to auction, and by far the most famous of Manet’s four lithographs is the one showing a figure at an open window as the raven approaches. I salute Bloomsbury for letting us see one of the others, for a change.

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