Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New Catalog-

The Book Elves love the internet very, very much. One of the things they love about it most (besides seeing who can sign up the most 'friends' they've never met before on Facebook) is the great offers they get through the email. But before they packed up the old VW Microbus and headed off for their new oceanside timeshare condo in Wheeling, West Virginia, they finished our latest catalog of books-

RECENT ACQUISITIONS FOR SUMMER, 2008 - Books on the decorative and fine arts, trades, and related subjects. The catalog is posted online.

Friday, August 15, 2008

An Important Aucton-

This week we've added a spectacular early American art auction catalog to our Ebay store-

"Catalogue of the Art Collection formed by the late Mrs. Mary J. Morgan..."

The catalog published in New York by the American Art Galleries for an auction held from March 3rd to March 15th, 1886. Subscriber’s Edition, limited to 500 numbered copies.

The very scarce Deluxe, illustrated edition of the catalog to one of America’s earliest blockbuster auctions and what was, for a time, the most famous art auction in America. The contents of the collection included modern paintings, Chinese porcelains, jades & crystal objects, “cabinet objects”, Sevres and other European porcelains, Minton porcelains, Webb cameo glass, other fine glass, silver, wood carvings, bronzes, and etchings.

Mary Morgan was the widow of a shipping tycoon, and collected a vast array of paintings and other art in her New York mansion. Upon her death Thomas Kirby of the American Art Association, the forerunner of Parke-Bernet, decided to make the Morgan sale a “can’t-miss” event.

The collection was controversial –Mrs. Morgan had simply walked in and bought her pictures from leading dealers instead of ingratiating herself personally with the artists as was the tradition of the day. Further, Lot 341 was an 8-inch Peachblow vase which Mrs. Morgan had bought from the American Art Association’s own retail galleries for $12,000 a few years previously. A print war broke out between the New York Times, which claimed Mrs. Morgan had paid a zero or two too much for the vase, and that in any case, there was no such thing as “Peachblow”, and Charles Henry Dana and the New York Sun, who stoughtly defended the AAA and the vase.

the Peachblow vase-

During the 3 week exhibition at the galleries prior to the auction 100,000 people viewed the paintings and Oriental art. The sale itself was standing-room only, and when they got to the vase, Baltimore connoisseur William T. Walters won it for $18,000 (which in no way stopped the controversy over its actual worth). The sale finally totaled $1,205,000 –with the exception of the 1882 Hamilton Palace sale in England, this was the highest total for any art collection at auction anywhere in the world.

The catalog itself was a groundbreaking achievement- “[Kirby’s] most striking innovation was the Mary Jane Morgan catalogue, a 305-page quarto volume that so far surpassed any cynosure of art collecting previously published in the United States that it not only launched the business at hand but synthesized Kirby’s whole new concept of the elite auction. Printed on heavy rag paper, with twenty-nine etchings, bound in pristine white boards with rich gold lettering, this weighty tome cost $40,000 to produce. It was a book to rest in splendor on the tables of the proudest salons. There was, of course, an ordinary catalog, without illustrations, for ordinary customers, the deluxe edition being limited to 500 numbered copies. The price was $10, but if mere money could have bought such a book, its propaganda value would have been lost. Except for a few copies sent to other cities, the entire edition was delivered by hand, with the compliments of the American Art Association, to the front doors of the most exclusive mansions in New York”.

For those wanting a more in-depth account, Wesley Towner devotes an entire chapter to Mrs. Morgan, her collection, this auction, the catalog, and the Peachblow vase in his book, “The Elegant Auctioneers”, from which we quoted above.

To see a full description and more pictures, go to our Ebay Store listing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Now, Tell the Truth-

Book Geek Test -
-by Joyce Godsey

Have you ever deliberately bought another copy because it had a different cover than the one you have?

Have you ever bought extra copies just so you could give them away?

Have you ever spent more than 20.00 to replace a book you read as a kid?

Have you ever pre-ordered a book as soon as it was humanly possible?

Have you ever maxed out your library card?

Have you ever tried to acquire absolutely everything an author has ever written including, text books, liner notes and book jacket blurbs?

Can you sense whether there are books at a yard sale or a flea market booth before you get there?

When you're shopping with friends do they try to rush you past the books and then groan audibly when you stop?

Have you ever not heard your named called in a bookstore? On purpose?

Have you ever been asked to leave a bookstore because it was 10 minutes past closing?

Do you fix mis-shelved books in bookstores?

Do you help customers find books in stores you don't work in?

Have you ever stood outside a bookstore waiting for it to open?

Have you ever scribbled a recommended book title on the back of your checkbook register or deposit slip?

Have you ever made up fake plans so you could read undisturbed?

Have you ever stayed up all night to finish a book and then called in late the next morning?

Have you ever started reading a book at the store and bought it so you could finish?

Have you ever flung a book you didn't like across the room?

Do you turn magazines sideways so you can read the book titles in the picture backgrounds?

Do you surreptitiously try to get the titles off the books people are reading on the subway?

Do you wonder why the people on TV don't have more bookcases in their homes?

Has anyone in your household encouraged you to open a bookstore so you can sell all the books cluttering up the place?

Have you ever used something for a bookmark that was important and forgotten what book it was in?

Have you ever sat in the car in the driveway while listening to an audio book?

Have you ever sat in the car in the driveway reading a real book?

Do you take more books on vacation that you could read in three vacations?

Do you have more than 4 unread books on your bedside table? more than 10? more than 25?

Do you have no bedside table, just a pile of books?

Have you ever fantasized about a 10 minute bookshopping spree?

Do you know the home city of all the major publishers by heart?

-Joyce Godsey is a bookseller and author of the Bibliophile Bullpen Blog