Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyMalton's Views

  • Sat, 15 Jun 2013 04:24:43    Permalink

    One of the things I love about this business is the way it stays fresh. Just when you think youve seen it all, another surprise comes along.
    Last summer I purchased a scarce color plate book. I know, color plates books arent my thing. But this one had Irish interest, and I was pretty sure I could flog it. I put it in catalog 213 described as follows:
    Malton, James. A PICTURESQUE AND DESCRIPTIVE VIEW OF THE CITY OF DUBLINDISPLAYED IN A SERIES OF THE MOST INTERESTING SCENES TAKEN IN THE YEAR 1791.   Lon.  n.d.  b/w and handcolored engravings. Oblong folio, unpaginated. ii, (18) pp. text, engraved title and dedication, two plans, frontispiece, and 25 handcolored plates, each with a page of text. Somewhat of a stretch for a maritime catalog, though DublinIS a port city, and there is one nice marine view. This book has a rather complicated history. It exists in both b/w and colored states. Tooley 315 notes that it was first issued in parts between 1792 and 1797, then in book form. According to Abbey 474, paper in the earlier states is watermarked. The paper is this copy shows no watermarks. It is bound in original boards with a paper label, and is complete, except that it lacks the Faden map, which many copies do. Plates show some foxing, mostly marginal, not affecting image. Colors are quite bright. Boards detached but present, sewing loose. Judging from descriptions in Tooley and Abbey, I would guess that this is an early 19th century issue, probably colored after publication. A line has been scratched out of the printing on the cover label, and this probably identified it as an uncolored copy. Still, the book has great auction records. Most recently, a colored copy sold at Doyles for $28,125. In 2005 a copy lacking the Faden map sold for $29,761, and in 2009 a spotted and browned copy sold for $23,000. This copy is reasonably priced at  $10000
    It didnt sell in the catalog, so I quoted it to a couple of likely dealers. They rejected it. I took it to the San Francisco book fair and showed it to a notable collector of Irish material no go. I took it to the New York book fair and exposed it to a sophisticated and well heeled international clientele. It remained on my shelf, unsold.
    So I consigned it to Heritage Auctions and they sold it to an Internet bidder on April 10 for $5000.
    Flash forward a couple of months.
    I walk into the London International Book FairAnd what do I discover within my first five minutes on the floor, in the booth of colleague Colin Page of Brighton? MY Malton, rebacked. Same paper cover label with the bottom line scratched out, same wrinkle in the first leaf, same strong coloring.
    Colin had it on offer for 24,000. Hed purchased it in December from a fellow in Lewes, and hed paid a hell of a lot more than $5000 for it.
    Internal alarm bells sounded. Was Heritage pulling a fast one on me?
    No. A little research revealed that Colins copy had been highlighted at the Oxford Book Fair in April, about the same time my copy was being ignored in New York.
    And, now that I looked closely, his copy was slightly different that mine. The bottom border of my cover label had worn away.
    His was intact. His had the Faden map. Mine did not.
    But how could there be two such similar copies?
    More consideration of the physical attributes of our two copies, and another study of our descriptions provided what I thought was a reasonable hypothesis. The penny dropped for me reading the bit of Colins description that said, Originally issued in parts, 1792-97, hence the variable dating of the plates and, according to Tooley, rare in colored state
    You bet its rare in the colored state. The reason both our copies have the bottom line of the label scratched out is because that line somehow identified these as a non-colored copies. They were later issues remainders if you will inexpensively bound (the sewing and backstrips on both our copies had perished), and often with the Faden map pulled out and sold on its own lacks the Faden map, which many copies do. At some point, probably early in the 19th century - According to Abbey 474, paper in the earlier states is watermarked. The paper is this copy shows no watermarks - some industrious soul or souls colored up a number of the b/w remainders, scratched out the line on the cover label identifying them as such, and sent them on their merry ways.
    This hypothesis, of course, need further research. But Ill leave that to you.
    The book fairs? ILAB seemed a little thinner than New York this year. 
    Opening night felt flat to me, but there was a good crowd the next day.Most dealers I spoke to reported a few sales, but not a terrific fair. PBFA was its usual sweaty mosh pit. Same dealers, a few new books.
    I bought enough to pay for my meals and hotels. Well see about the bar bill.
    Adjacent to the Olympiabook fair was the high toned Olympia International Antiques and Art Fair. A paradise of white carpets, fancy goods, it made the ILAB event seem a little grubby.
     The icing on the cake was the booth that provided hand holding for customers. Perhaps we antiquarian dealers should consider something along those lines.
    On another topic entirely, the girls at Flatrocks Gallery got a killer review for their new show, Our Working Waterfront Don Gorvett "Seafaring City"
    Great work, Anne Marie and Cynthia!

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