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Peddling Wonderment, Selling Privilege: Launching the Market for Medieval Books in Antebellum New York

Scott Gwara

Résumés

Des manuscrits du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance se trouvaient en Amérique du Nord dans les années 1820. On peut identifier quatre types d’origine : 1. la propriété ancestrale de livres anciens apportés par les premiers colons ; 2. des acquisitions par des missionnaires et des érudits ; 3. des souvenirs acquis par les élites lors de leur « Grand Tour » d’Europe; 4. des achats par les bibliophiles dans les catalogues de vente internationaux, auprès de libraires nationaux et des ventes aux enchères de volumes importés. Des exemples de tels manuscrits sont identifiés dans cet article, et leurs premiers propriétaires y sont considérés comme des collectionneurs pionniers. Un commerce de manuscrits, modeste mais rentable, a vu le jour dans les grandes villes, principalement à New York, où la firme de Daniel Appleton a détenu un premier monopole. Appleton’s avait acquis deux coffres de manuscrits enluminés à Paris. La vente fut cependant un défi. Étant donné que les manuscrits médiévaux et de la Renaissance dans le Nouveau Monde étaient des livres illisibles en raison de la langue et de l’écriture, les libraires entreprenants ont été contraints de développer des moyens innovants pour les vendre. Par exemple, Appleton a utilisé la « Placement Adverstising » pour vendre ses manuscrits, publiant des articles sur des sujets médiévaux qui mentionnaient ou évoquaient des manuscrits. Deux modes de commercialisation de manuscrits ont prédominé au milieu du xixe siècle. Le libraire Joseph Sabin a promu la « lecture artefactuelle ». Il a mis en avant la matérialité des manuscrits, leurs premiers propriétaires – des moines fanatiques – , la rareté de leur caractère ésotérique , et la possibilité de faire l’acquisition des œuvres complètes fabriquées par des artistes sensibles, bien que sans éducation. Sabin a détaillé ses idées dans les catalogues de ventes aux enchères qu'il a rédigés. George P. Philes, en revanche, a publié un bulletin appelé « Philobiblion » et mis en place un marketing bibliographique. Dans ce bulletin, il a démystifié les mythologies manuscrites de Sabin : les manuscrits n’étaient pas rares, ils ne contenaient pas des œuvres uniques de religieux, et n’étaient pas des objets de vénération mystique. Philes a fait commerce avec des collectionneurs d'élite qui se considéraient comme des aristocrates du Nouveau Monde. Il a emprunté ses idées aux «Archives du Bibliophile», une revue parisienne publiée par Anatole Claudin, dont il a traduit bon nombre de ses articles. Il a même vendu des manuscrits qui avaient été offerts aux « Archives ». Cet collaboration est un rare exemple d'influence du libraire parisien sur le marché de New York.

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Texte intégral

This is an extended version of a paper delivered at the 94th annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, 7-9 March 2019. I am grateful to Emerson Richards, Indiana University, for inviting me to speak. My research was generously supported by a Folter Fellowship in the History of Bibliography (Bibliographical Society of America, 2013) and a William H. Helfand Fellowship (The Grolier Club, 2013). Dr. Roland Folter kindly enabled me to consult his collection of auction catalogues and assisted me on historical records of manuscript sales. I wish to thank Drs. Laurent Ferri, Cornell University, and David T. Gura, University of Notre Dame, for their corrections to an advanced draft of this article.

  • 1 A. N. L. Munby, The Formation of the Phillipps Library Up to the Year 1840, Phillipps Studies 3 (Ca (...)

1The French Revolution, Napoleonic campaigns and nineteenth-century monastic secularizations displaced millions of books and manuscripts across Europe.1 A small, largely elite market for the subset of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts grew exponentially after about 1820, especially in London, where bulk buyers like Sir Thomas Phillipps, Richard Heber, the British Museum, and the Bodleian competed with aristocrats, industrialists, and academics for the choicest books. There was no comparable market in North America, where few manuscripts were sold, even as late as 1920. (The First World War, American middle class wealth, and the endorsement of elite collectors like J. P. Morgan, Henry Huntingdon and Henry Walters would accelerate manuscript sales in the early twentieth century.) In the Old World, specialist cadres with expertise and taste influenced public markets. Manuscripts were appreciated by Europeans as meaningful cultural artifacts, and major sales of them were frequently reported in the newspapers. It was quite different in the United States, where booksellers faced the challenge of creating a market for such conspicuously arcane objects. Lacking European historical, aesthetic or intellectual contexts, moneyed collectors bought them chiefly as book specimens antecedent to print. They struggled to fathom early manuscripts on any other terms, except perhaps as investments.

  • 2 Seymour de Ricci and W. J. Wilson, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United Sta (...)
  • 3 Lawrence Kehow, ed., Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes, D.D., Archbishop of New York (New (...)

2The challenge was threefold. First, most early manuscripts were literally unreadable books. Even if buyers could construe Latin—rarely true, with some notable exceptions—they still had to decipher the script and abbreviations. Then they faced the issue of genre. A dearth of scholarship on manuscripts meant that most of them were bibliographically and often textually inscrutable. Unlike many incunables with authoritative titles and authors, known printers, and ascertainable dates, manuscripts were largely created by anonymous scribes working in unknown places at unknown times. Finally, American Nativism—chiefly anti-Irish—impeached early books as objectionably Catholic. And so they were. In 1837 Father John (“Dagger John”) Hughes, the so-called “despotic priest” who went on to become Archbishop of New York, welcomed a prominent Episcopalian convert to his church with the gift of an illuminated breviary [fig. 1].2 The gesture highlighted Hughes’s opinion that medieval manuscripts, like Gothic cathedrals, affirmed the cultural superiority of Catholicism.3

Figure 1

In 1837 this manuscript was bestowed upon Dr. William E. Horner, a prominent Philadelphia physician, in recognition of his conversion to Catholicism.

Washington, DC, Georgetown University, Woodstock Theological Library MS 1.

3Despite the prejudice, indecipherability, and largely anonymous manufacture of early manuscripts, Americans came to pay high prices for them. Traces of this elite commerce may be found in private diaries, auction records, sale catalogues, merchant advertising, manuscript inscriptions, collectors’ biographies, and historical accounts of the book trade. The sources reveal a gradual and haphazard expansion in a remote byway of the rare book market. It begins with the appearance of small collections supplied from multiple sources, expands with the launch of Daniel Appleton & Co., the major importer of early manuscripts in New York, and gets firmly established in high-profile New York auctions around the time of the Civil War. Ever-increasing prices motivated some collectors, as it still does. But underlying the incipient commerce in manuscripts is the way they were marketed, first impressionistically as symbolic documents of unfathomable rarity, then sensibly in modern bibliographical terms. This transformation in the promotion of manuscripts to American middle class buyers signals the maturation of the American market in the period after 1870.

4The innovator in this salesmanship was the New Yorker, George P. Philes, whose Philobiblion—part magazine, part sales catalogue—disseminated the latest European scholarship on manuscript bibliophily. Philes demystified manuscripts at the same time that he flattered the rare book patronage of his American clients, regarding them as modern incarnations of medieval princes, bishops and intellectuals. Opposed to Philes was Joseph Sabin, the irascible New York dealer and author of A Dictionary of Books Relating to America in 29 volumes. Sabin promoted an older mode of impressionistic “artifactual reading” in American auctions of manuscripts. Among other things, manuscripts for him evoked “monkish” zeal in the artistic expression of sincere emotion. Appreciative owners, in Sabin’s opinion, could possess the lifetime accomplishment of a single ecstatic monk. This specious outlook prevailed for generations, in part because Sabin monopolized auction catalogue descriptions through the 1870s. Philes’s rationality would remain a minority view in Sabin’s lifetime, although it ultimately supplanted Sabin’s romanticizing.

5The following pages trace the development of early manuscript sales in North America in the terms outlined above, concentrating on the period from ca. 1819 to 1878. The first substantial American collections of manuscripts emerge in 1819, while the trend-setting auctions of them culminate in the 1878 sale of George T. Strong. Private collections formed in the first half of the nineteenth century began to enter second-generation ownership in the antebellum mid-century. The evidence shows how private, non-commercial sources—family heirlooms and Grand Tour souvenirs—mix with public, commercial ones—specialist booksellers and auctioneers. The competing styles of American rare book connoisseurship favored by Sabin and Philes reflect the transition of collectors from uninformed enthusiasts to knowledgeable practitioners.

Manuscript Sources in Antebellum America

  • 4 De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.954; C. U. Faye and W. H. Bond, Supplement to the Census of Medieval (...)
  • 5 De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.167.

6Before the establishment of a market for early manuscripts in North America, property had to be imported and aggregated in collections. Four primary import routes can be documented. The first was ancestral ownership. For example, Harvard’s Middle English Newe Cronycles of Englande and of Fraunce by Robert Fabyan (Harvard, MS Eng 766) is documented from 1656, by which time it belonged to Samuel Lee, the father-in-law of Cotton Mather.4 It had resided in New England from the early seventeenth century. In support of the Collegiate School of Connecticut, Elihu Yale donated books in 1714 that included Beinecke MS 27, Speculum humanae salvationis [fig. 2].5

Figure 2

This English copy of the Speculum humanae salvationis was among the very first manuscripts brought to North America.

New Haven, CT, Yale University, Beinecke Library MS Beinecke 27.

  • 6 Elihu’s paternal grandmother Anne was the daughter of George Lloyd, bishop of Chester (d. 1615), wh (...)
  • 7 These manuscripts go unmentioned in the 1809 catalogue and appear first in the 1835 catalogue, wher (...)
  • 8 De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.163.

7It belonged either to Yale’s Wrexham estate of Plas Grono or to the local estate of Erddig.6 In 1799 the Irishman Henry Hamilton Cox immigrated to York County, Pennsylvania. By 1817 he had given the Library Company of Philadelphia Greek, Welsh, and Hebrew manuscripts, as well as five volumes of state papers from the reign of James I.7 These manuscripts belonged to an estate in County Cork that Cox had inherited from his grandfather, Sir Michael Cox. A fragmentary Hours now at Yale (Beinecke Library MS 10) bears the inscription: “Enoch Huntington’s / the Gift of Mr. William Cone / a Book which he took out of the Ruins of a House at Morrisania in New York in the Campaign in the Year 1776” [fig. 3].8

Figure 3

This English Book of Hours was doubtless prized by the Morris family of New York.

New Haven, CT, Yale University, Beinecke Library MS Beinecke 10.

  • 9 Thomas Jones, History of New York During the Revolutionary War, etc., ed. Edward Floyd de Lancey, v (...)
  • 10 Scott Gwara, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the American South, 1798-1868 (Cayce, SC, 2016 (...)

8This was clearly the prized possession of the Morris family, whose “Morrisania” estate bordered the Harlem River.9 A final example is the Witherspoon Bible, now on deposit at Washington University in St. Louis. It was alienated from the library of James Parsons by his widow in 1798 [fig. 4].10

Figure 4

Currently on deposit at Washington University, the “Witherspoon Bible” still belongs to the descendants of Rev. Daniel M’Calla, who acquired it in Charleston, SC, in 1798.

St. Louis, MO, Washington University, University Libraries, Dept. of Special Collections, s.n. (“The Witherspoon Bible”).

9A wealthy immigrant planter in Charleston, Parsons had likely owned the manuscript by the time of his death in 1779. These manuscripts and many others were owned in North America as heirlooms, but by the mid-nineteenth century they were entering second-hand ownership in the fledgling commercial book trade.

10Other manuscripts were acquired early on by missionaries or scholars in pursuit of academic glory. Edward Everett, Harvard’s first Eliot Professor of Greek, picked up one Latin and seven Greek manuscripts on his travels in Europe and the Levant (Harvard, Houghton Library MSS Lat 39, Gr 3-4, 6, 7-1, 7-2, 8, 12) [fig. 5].

Figure 5

This Psalter datable to 1105 was one of six manuscripts that Professor Edward Everett bought on his very last day in the Levant from the British Consul-General in Constantinople.

Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Gr 3.

  • 11 “Quarterly Meeting, January, 1803,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1 (1791-183 (...)
  • 12 “Quarterly Meeting [August, 1816],” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1 (1791-183 (...)
  • 13 Milton McC. Gatch, ‘So Precious a Foundation’: The Library of Leander van Ess at the Burke Library (...)

11Everett had hoped to make a name for himself by finding ancient manuscripts like Oxford’s “Clarke Plato” (Oxford, Bodl. Lib. MS E. D. Clarke 39), the discovery of Edward Clarke, an English mineralogist and manuscript enthusiast. Learned Societies form a subset of academic collectors. The Massachusetts Historical Society obtained manuscripts through subscription from Rev. Thomas Hall, who shipped them from Leghorn, Italy. Mentioned in correspondence from 1803 is a Confessionale by Antoninus of Florence.11 A shipment from Hall in 1816 came with “several ancient manuscripts.”12 One was a late fifteenth-century Flemish Book of Hours, while another was a Greek volume of confessions said (like many at the time) to be from Mount Athos. The Baltimore Athenaeum, the Library Company of Baltimore, and Library Company of Philadelphia received manuscripts from members, while the Buffalo Historical Society, the State Library of New York, and the Smithsonian also held manuscripts before the Civil War. Finally, although the acquisition of manuscripts en bloc was rare, Union Theological Seminary in New York purchased the bibliothèque de travail of Leander van Ess in 1838.13 It held eleven early manuscripts.

  • 14 Washington, DC, Dominican House of Studies, s.n. (De Ricci and Wilson, Census, vol. 1, p. 462).

12Missionaries were active collectors, and their interests qualify as “academic.” Leaders of the nation’s domestic missions owned manuscripts. Edward Fenwick, first bishop of Cincinnati, treasured an illuminated Flemish Processional bestowed on him in 1826 by Father Stephen T. Badin, his Vicar General [fig. 6].14

Figure 6

This Psalter datable to 1105 was one of six manuscripts that Professor Edward Everett bought on his very last day in the Levant from the British Consul-General in Constantinople.

Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Gr 3.

  • 15 Ibid. 486.
  • 16 Ibid. vol. 2, p. 1971; Scott Gwara, “Scott Gwara’s Review of Manuscript Sales: Fall and Winter 2017 (...)
  • 17 Gwara, Manuscripts in the American South 2. Benton gave two to his son, R. A. Benton.
  • 18 “An Exhibition of Oriental and European Manuscripts,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 18 (1 (...)
  • 19 Thomas Laurie, Dr. Grant and the Mountain Nestorians (Boston, 1853), p. 282.
  • 20 John Wright, Historic Bibles in America (New York, 1905), p. 133; De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.214 (...)
  • 21 Edward C. Mitchell, The Critical Handbook of the Greek New Testament (New York, 1896), p. 230; De R (...)
  • 22 John Gwynn, Remnants of the Later Syriac Versions of the Bible (London, 1909), p. xlviii.
  • 23 On Hodgson’s career, see Michael O’Brien, Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life in the American (...)

13Michel Portier, the first bishop of Mobile, owned a Book of Hours, now Washington, DC, Georgetown University MS 4, given to Georgetown on 14 January 1850.15 He probably brought it with him from France when he undertook his American mission in 1817. Portier’s successor, the Rt. Rev. John Quinlan, also possessed a Book of Hours, now Ohio State University MS Spec.Rare.MS.MR.47.16 Manuscripts brought (or sent) to America by foreign missionaries were far more exotic than these Latin books. The five so-called “Benton manuscripts” were collected at Chania, Crete in 1844 by Rev. A. A. Benton, a graduate of the New York Theological Seminary.17 In 1843 Dr. Asahel Grant, a medical doctor practicing in Utica, donated a Syriac Gospel book to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions18 which he must have obtained on a mission in Urumiah (Urmia, now in Iran near Iraq-Turkish border). In Grant’s region the Englishman George Percy Badger led the Anglican crusade, one of his goals being to “collect ancient manuscripts, both in Syriac and Arabic, especially the Scripture, rituals and liturgies.”19 A Greek lectionary at Brown University was discovered in Athens in 1845 by Reverends A. N. Arnold and Horace T. Love.20 Around 1835 William Schauffler bestowed a fourteenth-century Greek lectionary on his alma mater, Andover Theological Seminary. After graduating in 1830, Schauffler had taken up residence in Constantinople, proselytizing Jews and Armenians there.21 A Syriac manuscript dated 1471 was acquired by the Rev. W. F. Williams, who posted it to his brother in Utica, NY, perhaps in the 1860s.22 There were Arabic and Persian manuscripts, too. William Brown Hodgson, a Savannah native who learned Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, and traveled in North Africa, the Middle East, and Peru, returned home with 300 manuscripts, mostly modern.23 Incidentally, the first “medieval” Persian codex in North American seems to be MS 353 at the Charleston Library Society, a copy of the Ikhtiyarat-i Badi’i (a pharmacology treatise) by Haji Zayn Attar (d. ca. 1403), copied in 1492. The French botanist André Michaux obtained it in Isfahan in 1783, during a botanical expedition. He brought it to Charleston, where he had founded a botanical garden in 1787. His collecting motivation was obviously academic.

  • 24 Yale, Beinecke Library MSS 17-18; De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.165.

14A third transatlantic route for manuscripts was the Grand Tour. Thomas Frognall Dibdin had promoted bibliographical tourism in his supremely influential Bibliographical, Antiquarian, and Picturesque Tour of France and Germany (London, 1821). Dibdin’s library tour omitted no opportunity of seeing famous manuscripts and then buying some “membranaceous specimens.” American collectors also bought on Grand Tours, usually from European dealers advantageously situated on the tourist routes. One of these tourist collectors was Caroline M. Street, whose husband had founded Yale’s school of art, built Street Hall, and endowed the program with income from a hotel. In 1868 Mrs. Street gave Yale a late fourteenth-century French missal (Beinecke Library MS 18) [fig. 7], and in 1869 she donated a modest Book of Hours (MS 17).24

Figure 7

Caroline M. Street (“Mrs. Augustus R. Street”) bought this missal in Paris in 1847 and presented it to Yale in 1868.

New Haven, CT, Yale University, Beinecke Library MS Beinecke 17.

  • 25 Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Books (New York: McMennomy, 12 February 1819), lots 133, 135. The Ne (...)
  • 26 William Frederick Poole, Catalogue of the Collection of Books, Manuscripts and Works of Art Belongi (...)
  • 27 Gwara, Manuscripts in the American South 3-12.

15She obtained these on European travels in 1847 and 1845, respectively. Matthias Bruen, son of the wealthiest man in the New World, bought manuscripts on tour, and sold an illuminated bible and a vellum Psalter in 1819, just after returning with them from the continent.25 In frontier Cincinnati, Henry Probasco assembled a fine library with choice manuscripts now held by the Newberry Library. A catalogue drawn up in 1873 noted: “With a desire to add interest to the collection, important additions were made to it during an eighteen months’ tour in 1866-67. These were Biblical Codices, Psalteriums, Breviaries, Missals, Histories … .”26 Finally, Dr. William Howard, son of Maryland’s governor, bought at least seventeen text manuscripts in Paris while treating Napoleonic War veterans from 1819 to 1821.27 He seems to have acquired most, if not all, of them from Charles Chardin, a figure of the French Revolution. They had a lot in common, as Howard’s father, the governor of Maryland, was a hero of the American Revolution.

  • 28 Ibid. 14.
  • 29 Ibid. 15.
  • 30 Ibid. 11.
  • 31 Rich also donated a fragmentary Book of Hours to the Boston Athenaeum at least by 1827. He had been (...)
  • 32 Henry Stevens, Recollections of James Lenox, ed. Victor H. Palsits, (New York, 1951), 52-5.
  • 33 Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ; Psalm commentary. Stevens also bought ma (...)
  • 34 McKay, Auction Catalogues 5; Catalogue of a Collection of Singularly Interesting, Fine and Rare Boo (...)

16Purchasing manuscripts abroad was one way of obtaining them commercially. A second means was to order them from a catalogue. International sales were unreliable because the manuscript might have been sold by the time the order was received, and currency exchange complicated transactions. These obstacles did not prevent the Savannah merchant and planter Alexander Smets from acquiring manuscripts from the London catalogues of Thomas Thorpe, including an eleventh-century copy of Gregory’s Moralia from an 1834 issue.28 Three years later Smets snagged a handsome Roman de la Rose that nowadays survives in a Scottish castle.29 Robert Gilmor of Baltimore bought a manuscript bible through an agent, Obadiah Rich (Princeton University MS Garrett 28).30 By 1830 Rich was working in London as a factor for American buyers, mostly private.31 Through the agency of Henry Stevens, the New York collector James Lenox acquired two Wycliffite Bibles in 1859.32 Stevens also sold Middle English fragments to Andrew Dickson White, the president of Cornell University, 1876.33 Stevens was an éminence grise of the international booktrade at this time. In 1860 he preempted the sale of the Crowninshield Library with an offer of $10,000.34 The collection included a Book of Hours (lot 800) that Edward Crowninshield bought in the 1844 Duke of Sussex sale (now Vanderbilt University, Special Collections Library BX2080 .C37 1480).

  • 35 Washington, DC, Library of Congress MS 56; see Svato Schutzner, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript (...)
  • 36 Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting (University Park, PA, 199 (...)
  • 37 [Evert Augustus Duyckinck], Memorial of John Allan (New York, 1864), p. 3: “ … a kind hearted man, (...)

17Of course, having manuscripts already in the United States facilitated commerce because collectors could buy on the spot. It seems likely that bookshops in some cities might have had only single manuscript specimens. In 1807, for example, Robert Gilmor, Jr. purchased a Book of Hours in a Charleston bookshop.35 While Charleston was a prominent port with wealthy citizens, luxury Hours must have been conspicuously rare at this date.36 Large cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York presumably supported multiple booksellers with larger inventories of better manuscripts. Selections were limited before the Civil War, however, and we can only deduce availability from auction records and anecdotal evidence. The New Yorker John Allan was an exuberant and well-regarded collector known for his thrift [fig. 8].37

Figure 8

This portrait of John Allan was commissioned for the auction catalogue of his possessions.

Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

  • 38 James Wynne, Private Libraries of New York (New York, 1860), p. 12; [Joseph Sabin], A Catalogue of (...)
  • 39 “Introduction,” Transactions of the Grolier Club, part 2 (1894), 11-18, at p. 17. This was three ti (...)
  • 40 William Loring Andrews, The Old Booksellers of New York and Other Papers (New York, 1895), p. 25. A (...)

18He was a salaried book-keeper, rent collector and commissioning agent for British booksellers. Every time he had money Allan went shopping, eventually amassing legendary collections of books, prints, walking sticks, snuff boxes, kilts and tartans. He came to own 30 pre-1600 Western manuscripts.38 His collection of books and curios sold in 1864 for $37,689, the modern equivalent of $6.5 million.39 While the manuscripts may have been ordered from abroad, the evidence suggests that Allan accumulated them over decades of friendly visits to the booksellers on Broadway.40

  • 41 Catalogue of Valuable Old English Books (New York: Cooley & Bangs, 3 January 1838) [McKay 265]; Cat (...)
  • 42 Auction advertising in the New-York Tribune, 10, 11, 14 December 1841, p. 3.
  • 43 Catalogue of an Extensive Collection of Rare, Valuable and Curious Old English Books (New York: Roy (...)
  • 44 New York Morning Courier, 15 June 1842, p. 1. The sale was scheduled for 18 June but does not appea (...)
  • 45 Selections from the Libraries of Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex and Robert Southey (New York: G (...)
  • 46 Advertising for it appears in the New York Morning Courier on 17 October 1846. On 20 October The Ev (...)
  • 47 Medieval Manuscripts from the Trivulzio Collection (New York: George A. Leavitt, 27 November 1886) (...)

19Yet Allan may also have obtained some of his manuscripts at auction. While some lots of manuscripts entered the auction market via first-generation American ownership, most were imported for the purpose of sale at auction. It was a common practice, in fact, to import rare books acquired at London auctions and to consign them to American auction houses. For example, in 1838 Cooley & Bangs sold printed books from the collections of William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester; Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton; Charles Manners-Sutton, 1st Viscount Canterbury; and Richard Heber, among others.41 From the late 1830s onwards auction sales in New York included manuscripts—mostly one or two and rarely more than half a dozen by the mid-1850s. If only as symbols of extreme antiquity, manuscripts attracted attention and were prominently mentioned in local advertising. Gurley & Hill sold “a magnificent Roman missal, a rich and rare gem”42 on 14 December 1841.43 In 1842 the firm advertised “rare old Black Letter Books” in addition to a “splendid Roman Missal of the 13th century, beautifully illustrated.”44 (No catalogue survives.) The 15 June issue of the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer added more details: “a manuscript Roman Missal of the 13th century, containing 100 pages with ornamented capitals in rich colors, and 13 miniatures beautifully painted.” In 1844 Gurley imported seven vellum missals, six of the fifteenth century and one of the sixteenth, that originated in the Duke of Sussex collection.45 Two years later they offered either four or five “illuminated missals on vellum.”46 Manuscript lots were thin, but all these sales led up to the 1886 Trevulzio auction in New York,47 the first in North America comprised entirely of early manuscripts, all consigned by Ulric Hoepli, the Milan dealer who was brokering the ancestral library of the dukes of Trevulzio.

  • 48 J. J. G. Alexander et al., The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscrip (...)
  • 49 Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey Thomas, The Diary of George Templeton Strong, 4 vols. (New York: Mac (...)
  • 50 Ibid. 66.

20Different from John Allan in every respect was George Templeton Strong, the Civil War diarist. Strong’s visceral passion for manuscripts and early books emerged in his teens, inspired by his Columbia teacher, John McVickar. Strong recorded seeing a manuscript bible in McVickar’s possession by 1836 (NYPL, Manuscripts & Archives MS 11).48 He wrote, “after college went into Prof. McVickar’s … saw some superb books of his—one in particular, a MS. Bible on vellum of about 1300, was the most beautiful thing I ever saw.”49 Strong soon acquired his own manuscript, and in 1837 a vellum Hours which he called “very splendidly and elaborately illuminated” and “a curiosity worth possessing.”50 This is likely to be Johns Hopkins, Eisenhower Library MS B7, a Flemish Book of Hours, Use of Tournai [fig. 9].

Figure 9

George Strong wrote “G. T. S. no. 4” on the flyleaf of this Book of Hours, which he probably acquired from D. Appleton in New York.

Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University, Milton S. Eisenhower Library MS B07.

  • 51 James Wynne’s Private Libraries of New York (note 33, above) was compiled from Wynne’s column, “Pri (...)

21Strong numbered his manuscripts, and this one bears an inscription, “no. 4.” Even in 1837, when Strong was 18 years old, he owned three other manuscripts. One of these must have been Eisenhower Library MS B6, a Book of Hours bearing the date 20 May 1837 [fig. 10]. Strong had clearly begun a quest for medieval manuscripts, buying two in a single month. By 1857 he had amassed at least nineteen early manuscripts.51 Incidentally, Strong routinely read the manuscripts he bought, a habit that set him apart from nearly every other collector of his day.

Figure 10

George Strong acquired this manuscript on 20 May 1837, when he was 17 years old.

Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University, Milton S. Eisenhower Library MS B06.

  • 52 John Howard Brown, Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States (Boston: James H. Lamb Co., (...)
  • 53 Ibid. A serialized history of the firm published in the 1886 American Bookseller records a slightly (...)
  • 54 Fifty Years among Authors, Books and Publishers (Hartford, CT: M. A. Winter & Hatch, 1886), p. 180.
  • 55 Ibid.
  • 56 Ibid.
  • 57 Bouton advertised in The New York Daily Tribune (29 September 1859) that a shipment of books includ (...)
  • 58 American Literary Gazette and Publisher’s Circular 1 Oct. 1868, p. 283: “TO BOOK COLLECTORS. J. W. (...)
  • 59 This rare catalogue is undated, but 1869 is the last publication date of books found in it, and Bou (...)

22Strong obtained at least some of his manuscripts at the New York firm of Daniel Appleton,52 the first in North America to develop a specialty in pre-modern manuscripts. Sales of medieval and Renaissance manuscript books took off in the late 1830s, when Appleton’s obtained a collection of them in Paris early in 1837. Appleton had sailed to London in the previous year to open an office that would enable him to export books to his New York shop. American booksellers are known to have undertaken Atlantic crossings well before this time and to have exported books to New World markets. Manuscripts were a novelty, however. The sideline proved lucrative after Appleton bought the Paris cache of manuscripts, which were said to have “afforded the firm a large profit.”53 According to J. C. Derby, Appleton knew nothing about medieval books “except that they were regarded as very rare.”54 Nevertheless, he “bought enough to fill several cases”55 and instructed his son to make only a few available at a time. Derby records that “they were eagerly purchased.”56 Other firms followed suit in successive decades. Bernard Westermann handled manuscripts from at least 1859. He imported them through family in the Leipzig book trade. Similarly, J. W. Bouton, a former employee of Appleton’s, developed a specialty in early manuscripts.57 Few of his catalogues survive, but print advertising from the 1860s and 1870s mentions them prominently.58 His 1869 Catalogue of a Rare and Interesting Collection of Illustrated Works proffered a bonanza of manuscripts acquired by a private collector either on tour or through catalogues.59 Called “A Connoisseur’s Private Library,” the collection was said to have been “selected in Europe within a few years’ past, by a gentleman of a refined taste, expressly for his own gratification” [fig. 11].

Figure 11

This 1869 Bouton catalogue, which contains a number of early manuscripts, can be dated by the shop’s address.

Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

23Appleton’s early success in selling manuscripts relied on innovative marketing. “Illuminated missals” were widely advertised to collectors “who have a relish for quaint books of past ages.” Notices in the 1842 New York Evening Post and 1843 issues of The New York Tribune stated,

D. A. & Co. are constantly receiving old Books in every department of literature, science and art. The rare and curious works embraced in this collection may not be known to many who visit our city, comprising a variety of illuminated missals, black letter tomes, &c. Bibliomaniacs and those who have a relish for quaint books of past ages, will do well to call.

  • 60 In November 1841, Strong took possession of a manuscript bible ordered from Payne & Foss the previo (...)

24The early manuscripts were expensive in relative terms. In December 1842 Appleton’s advertised a twenty dollar reward for the return of a stolen “Missale Romanum, on vellum, in antique binding.” Unfortunately, none of these early Appleton manuscripts can be identified with complete confidence, although two of them are likely to be the Johns Hopkins Hours acquired by George Strong in 1837. If Strong’s manuscripts convey the general quality, Appleton’s inventory was mediocre, but exotic enough to command very high prices. It was a common story: imperfect and pedestrian manuscripts were sold in the New World, where buyers did not know how to be picky. Yet Strong had money, taste and motivation. By 1841 he was also buying superior manuscripts from the London firm of Payne and Foss, paying a 10% premium through Appleton’s commission business.60 The Payne and Foss acquisitions were more expensive, to be sure, but much higher quality.

25The earliest public evidence of Appleton’s trade in manuscripts appears in 1841. On August 14th The New World devoted a column to Appleton’s, with a paragraph entitled “Illuminated Missals” [fig. 12].

Figure 12

Placement advertising in The New World (New York) featured medieval subject-matter alongside advertisements for manuscripts.

The New World, August 14th, 1841

26This article was reprinted from The New York Evening Post:

Appleton & Co., in Broadway, have two copies of manuscript Roman Missals, exceedingly ancient and executed on parchment, with all the exactness and beauty which belongs to the ancient handwriting before the discovery of printing. They are embellished with drawings showing the state of the arts of design at that early age. The pages are ornamented with borders representing fruits, foliage and flowers. One of these volumes bears the marks of a much higher antiquity than the other and has a costly ornamented binding, apparently as old as the manuscript itself.

27In this announcement Appleton used placement advertising for the first time to broker its manuscripts. Placement advertising entails embedding product promotions in unexpected or alternative venues. For example, the New World issue was headed by two relevant articles, the first on backgammon. Its author remarks, “the form of the backgammon table at this period [the “Norman dominion” in England] is shown in a beautifully illuminated manuscript of the thirteenth century.” The second article, also front-page, was an “original novel” entitled The Duchess of Ferrara: A Tale of the Middle Ages. While manuscripts per se do not figure in this work, some feature briefly in Beatrice: A Tale of Padua, published on 4 December: “A table draped with crimson occupied the centre of the chamber, upon which lay a guitar, numerous manuscript volumes, and an illuminated missal secured by golden clasps.” Readers of these articles might be inspired to own a genuine medieval artifact, conveniently sold in the same issue.

  • 61 It was reported that Sabin catalogued 150 “or more” private libraries, some for auction houses (And (...)

28Placement advertising was a sophisticated approach to the sale of rare books. The innovator who took it to greater heights—and who, incidentally, changed the way collectors perceived manuscripts—was the New York bookseller, George P. Philes. His efforts supplanted the tendentious mythologies that had come to influence manuscript descriptions: the belief that they took a lifetime to write and illustrate, that they exhibit monkish fanaticism, that the pigments were made from crushed gemstones, and so on. In fact, Philes’ academic approach to manuscripts contravened the way of reading literally unreadable objects developed by Joseph Sabin, the New York bookseller and bibliographer of American imprints who catalogued most of the manuscripts auctioned in New York from 1856 onwards.61 Both Sabin and Philes influenced the public appreciation of manuscripts in New York, the major market for them in North America. Their methods were entirely antithetical: English vs. French bibliophily, illuminated vs. text manuscripts, middle class vs. elite consumers. Philes consciously rejected Sabin’s sensationalism in these disparities.

Artifactual “Reading”

29 The way early manuscripts were marketed in North America reflects how they were interpreted as historical objects. The contents may have been “unreadable,” but manuscripts could still be appealing for externalities of antiquity, artistry, manufacture and provenance. As artifacts, they came to be construed metaphorically in light of such superficial characteristics as: 1. their fortuitous survival as witnesses to historical epochs; 2. their surpassing rarity, luxury and skill in decoration and binding; 3. their alleged production in various European monasteries, cities or regions; and 4. their utility in the hands of past owners, broadly imagined. The Englishman Joseph Sabin promoted these dogmas, but he did not invent this brand of “artifactual” reading. In fact, it can be illustrated in an 1842 article printed on Christmas Eve in the Utica Daily Gazette [fig. 13].

Figure 13

An 1842 article from the Utica Daily Gazette mentioned an English Register of Writs.

Utica Daily Gazette, December 1842

30This puff described a fourteenth-century English Register of Writs owned by Mrs. Angelica James, now Beinecke Library MS 60 [fig. 14]:

[Mrs. James] has also a rare curiosity for our antiquaries, particularly for those of the legal profession, in a manuscript copy, written on fine parchment, with various ornamental devices in ink and bronze, and all executed with the utmost precision and exactness, of the old English Registrum breviarum [sic] tempore Edward the First, who came to the throne A. D. 1272, in a handsome and distinct chirograph, the life work perhaps, of some cloistered monk, (for it is a very thick and close written volume) more than 500 years since, and of course before the invention of printing.

Figure 14

Register of Writs mentioned in the Utica Daily Gazette.

New Haven, CT, Yale University, Beinecke Library MS Beinecke 60.

31While its abbreviated Anglicana script and convoluted statutes in Latin, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English remain uninterpretable, the manuscript can still be read “artifactually” in terms of its ownership (by a medieval lawyer), medium (“fine parchment”), manufacture (“handsome and distinct chirograph, the life work perhaps, of some cloistered monk”), decoration (“ornamental devices in ink and bronze”), provenance (former owners William Jenninges, John Knight, Thomas Cowper, and Ambrose Davenport), and antiquity (“age of Edward I”). This Registrum also boasts a special antecedence, having been created “before the invention of printing.” It is a relic from a bygone age, a physical testament to the establishment of codified precepts. To imagine the former “utility” of this manuscript, one need only reflect on its symbolism in transmitting English law to a new nation. An artifactual understanding of this manuscript therefore emphasized its genre, origin, decoration, use, transmission, provenance, and desirability. None of these attributes, of course, speaks to its unreadable text.

  • 62 Bibliotheca Splendidissima: Catalogue of a Sumptuous Collection of Books, etc. (New York: Bangs Bro (...)

32 This associative mode of reading early manuscripts emerged most visibly in 1856, a pivotal date for the sale of manuscripts in North America. In this year the New York auction house of Bangs, Cooley, & Keese handled the Bibliotheca Splendidissima of Andrew Ellicott Douglass [fig. 15].62

Figure 15

Title page of the Andrew Ellicott Douglass sale, Bibliotheca Splendidissima. In 1856 this was the largest collection of early manuscripts ever sold in North America.

Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

33Douglass came from a family of engineers. He graduated from Kenyon College in 1838 and went on to make gunpowder for the Hazard Powder Company. His collection of nineteen early manuscripts was the largest ever sold in North America at the time, and Sabin established the terms by which they would be described in auction catalogues for the next decade. He devised a masterpiece of artifactual hyperbole that expressed both a credulous enthusiasm for early manuscripts and a shameless ignorance of them. For example, he identified the German language as Dutch, assigned most of the Hours to the fourteenth century, and dated sermons by Johannes Herolt to 1350, though Herolt would be born several decades later. He relied on spine titles, rubrics, or prior sales records to describe a Book of Hours as a Missale, Heures, Horæ, Preces, or Office d’Eglise. Shaky Latin led him to write De predestinatio for De predestinatione, De nativitate Domine for De nativitate Domini, and Exhortatio quedam notabiles for Exhortatio quedam notabilis. Despite these and other faults, however, Sabin popularized the American idiom of manuscript cataloguing for a generation of American collectors.

  • 63 Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Books (New York: McMennomy, 1819) [McKay 186].

34Auctioneers before the appearance of Bibliotheca Splendidissima struggled to convey the interest of early manuscripts. The two manuscripts that Matthias Bruen sold in 1819 were treated like printed books in the sales catalogue [fig. 16].63

Figure 16

Two manuscripts from the 1819 Matthias Bruen sale were listed in a section of theology volumes.

  • 64 Catalogue of the Splendid Library and Philosophical, Chemical and Astronomical Apparatus, of the La (...)
  • 65 Catalogue of the Library of the Late Robert Gilmor (Baltimore: Joseph Robinson, 1849).

35His illuminated bible and vellum Psalter were sandwiched between two Stephanus editions and a Black Letter bible dated 1504. Bruen’s manuscript bible boasted a laconic description: “a perfect folio manuscript of the 14th century on vellum with fine miniatures.” The Psalter is merely a “quarto book on vellum.” These perfunctory accounts seem downright progressive compared to the 1834 sale of William Howard’s library. The stymied cataloger wedged an entry for eighteen “sundry ancient manuscripts” among classical works [fig. 17].64 Some of them were not even manuscripts. Yet the anonymous cataloger of Robert Gilmor’s library wins the laurels for bibliographical ineptitude. In 1849 he alphabetized seven obviously “unreadable” manuscripts under the term “seven” [fig. 18].65

Figure 17

Eighteen unidentified volumes of “Sundry Ancient Manuscripts” were gathered into a single lot in the 1834 auction of Dr. William Howard’s library and scientific equipment (Baltimore).

Figure 18

Seven early manuscripts in the 1848 Robert Gilmor, Jr. sale (Baltimore) were alphabetized under the word “Seven.”

  • 66 [Sabin], Bibliotheca Splendidissima, p. 77.
  • 67 Philobiblion I.1, p. 11.
  • 68 Ibid. 9.

36Bibliotheca Splendidissima was notably different. Sabin’s two-page preface marketed manuscripts not for their textual value but as symbolic objects like Mrs. James’s Register of Writs. “The large number of missals must not be overlooked,” Sabin urged in a prefatory “Notice.” “There are altogether nearly a score of these memorials of the past, indicative alike of Art, Zeal, Devotion, and it may be Fanaticism, embodying some of the finest specimens of an Art which is now lost or forgotten.” Sabin’s preface defined Books of Hours as “memorials of the past,” evoking artifactual—not graphic—reading predicated on an imagined historical utility. Books of Hours memorialized the past by recalling their use in the hands of medieval religious, on which terms modern owners need not read the text to appreciate the object. Like Mrs. James and everyone else, furthermore, Sabin thought that monks committed their entire lives to the production of a single book: “A life occupied in the production of a single volume was deemed well spent.”66 Subsequent owners would therefore possess an intimate relic consecrated not only by repeated acts of devotion in the monkish cell, but also by the piety of copying and painting. New owners were invited to imagine Latin recitation as a dangerous Catholic enthusiasm, devotional utterance as a mantic sensationalism, and baroque images as an irrational seduction. Nor did Sabin alone hold this opinion. In a review of Antoine Méray’s Les Libres Precheurs (Paris, 1860), even the sober George P. Philes declared that monks concocted “daring assertions … [when] over-excited by the abuse of ecstatic contemplation.”67 In a “half dreamy state of mystical reverie, at war with invisible and supernatural agents,” this “mystical faith and superstitious devotion” made them “derive a dreadful delight in describing, with impassioned eloquence, the horrible details of [Hell’s] torments.”68 It seems a small step from describing hell in a homily to evoking it in a devotional book.

37Sabin went on to imply that encountering such a monkish prayer book—admiring its miniatures, pouring over its intricate decoration, perhaps even mumbling its Latin supplications—might induce fanatical feelings, which were irrational, toxic, and seductive. Saying that prayer books were “indicative alike of Art, Zeal, Devotion, and it may be Fanaticism,” he exploited the furtive appeal of religious profanity and modern scandal to sell early manuscripts. The reference to “fanaticism” invoked Protestant revivals of the 1850s. Revivals and prayer meetings promoted fanaticism as the experience of excessive feeling associated with intense spiritual arousal, particularly that engendered by evangelical Christianity. The sectional “fanaticism” that drove politics in 1856 ushered in the Great Awakening of 1857, a torrent of prayer that intensified after the Panic of 1857. The fanaticism of immigrant laborers alarmed New York elites, for obvious reasons, although some prayer meetings resisted it. In 1882 S. Irenaeus Prime celebrated twenty-five years of the Fulton Prayer Meeting, launched in September of 1857. He boasted,

  • 69 Prayer and its Answer Illustrated in the First Twenty-Five Years of the Fulton Street Prayer Meetin (...)

These twenty-five years of daily prayer have been happily free from the appearance of any form of fanaticism. The line between a strong emotion and a fanatical spirit is not easily made plain. The language and manner that appear to some wild and unreasonable, seem very gentle and moderate to those who are in the midst of it partaking of the spirit of the hour … The meeting itself has never been made the medium of publishing dangerous sentiments, or in exhibiting unusual or unscriptural methods … It has had no artificial or factitious excitement to keep it up. It has never been in the bad sense of the word sensational. The interest has not been sustained by physical demonstrations, shoutings, trances, visions, or miracles of any sort … And its faith has been intelligent, rational, and calm. Therefore, there has been no fanaticism.69

  • 70 Recent Recollections of the Anglo-American Church by a Layman, Five Years Resident in That Republic(...)

38Just as Prime understood how the “language and manner” of prayer could become “wild and unreasonable,” the author of Recent Recollections of the Anglo-American Church documented in 1861 that hymn books were “exquisitely adapted to revive a fanatical feeling, sung as they were to the most ranting, and often boisterous and profane tunes.”70 Far from being sober theological texts, medieval prayer books could prompt disturbing enthusiasms. Sabin was coy, however. He suggested that spiritual ardor “may be Fanaticism,” that illuminated manuscripts “perhaps” evoked sympathetic heterodoxy. Reassured that their new purchase was only potentially deviant, only just possibly illicit, bidders could take possession of a clandestine radicalism.

  • 71 Charles Colbert, “A Critical Medium: James Jackson Jarves’s Vision of Art History,” American Art 16 (...)

39 Having implied that monkish prayer books were powerfully compelling, Sabin was yet challenged to explain their primitive execution to buyers familiar with more realistic, not to mention more proficient, neoclassical paintings. At the time, there was hardly any exposure in America to medieval art. The first major collection in America of Italian “Primitives” was forfeited to Yale in 1871 for an unpaid debt.71 Their owner, art historian James Jackson Jarves, simply could not find a buyer for his paintings. Making a virtue of necessity, then, Sabin proposed that monkish art reflected emotional sincerity, the purest expression of religious ardor:

Its quaintness in miniature and occasionally grotesque violation of perspective rules would, in some instances, confirm Carlyle’s remark that ‘sincerity is better than grace,’ while its ingenious elaboration in ornament displays a zeal that knows no weariness, and an ardor quickened by the conviction of doing God service. [fig. 19]

Figure 19

Joseph Sabin’s preface to the early manuscript lots in the 1856 sale of Andrew Ellicott Douglass’s Bibliotheca Splendidissima.

Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

  • 72 Sartor Resartus: On Heroes and Hero-Worship (London, 1967), p. 267.

40Such devotion not merely excused but in fact validated rustic mannerisms, such as a “quaintness in miniature” and “grotesque violations of perspective.” This rustic expression confirms Carlyle’s remark that “sincerity is better than grace,” a Transcendentalist notion of the artist as imparting a divine sentiment sincerely felt. Sabin’s quotation from Carlyle’s On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History promoted the “earnest” and “honest” expression found in medieval books: “Sincerity … is better than grace,” Carlyle ventured. “I feel that these old Northmen were looking into Nature with open eye and soul: most earnest, honest, childlike, and yet manlike; with a great-hearted simplicity and depth and freshness, in a true, loving, admiring, unfearing way.”72 The expressive primitiveness of ancient paganism recalled, for Sabin, the alleged honesty of missal illumination. Buyers found new ways of appreciating unfamiliar and sometimes clumsy artwork.

41Sabin not only established a perspective for appreciating esoteric manuscripts but also created the objective bibliographical terms by which they should be described. His model derived from accounts of manuscripts in European catalogues and from descriptions of printed books, especially those with etchings or engravings. Each manuscript volume in the Douglass sale received at least four lines of description, and as many as twelve, with commentary added in Kleinschrift [fig. 20].

Figure 20

Sabin’s description of a manuscript in the 1856 sale of Andrew Ellicott Douglass’s Bibliotheca Splendidissima.

Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

42Italics drew attention to the substrate (“pure vellum”), initials (“richly illuminated capitals”), borders(“arabesque border”), miniatures (“nine large miniatures”), and notable bindings (“stamped hogskin with clasps”). Vellum substrates are “white,” “pure,” “finest,” or even “purest white” and “thinnest and purest.” Pretentious titles were given in Latin, sometimes French, rarely English: “Horæ Mariæ Virginis (Belg.) cum calendario,” “Heures a l’Usage de Rome,” “Manuscript on Vellum en Langue Romance.” Dates, too, are cited by Latin saeculum (“century”) using large capitals like “sec. XIV,” or were “sine anno” if unknown. Size was measured by printed book standards: “square 12mo,” “small 8vo,” “thick 4to,” etc. Either page or folio numbers were provided, or sometimes estimated: “500 pages” vs. “454 leaves.” Old, original, or decorative bindings were highlighted: “sumptuously bound in red velvet, gilt edges, with massive gilt clasps.” Unlike Sabin’s bizarre historical contextualization of early manuscripts, this familiar jargon made them seem just like printed books. Middle class collectors could take comfort in the recognizable idiom and, at the same time, appreciate the appeal of early manuscripts as printed book prototypes.

  • 73 Philobiblion vol. 1, no. 1 (December 1861), p. 3.

43Sabin’s marketing strategies paid off handsomely in 1856 and afterwards, since his rhetoric and stature triggered middle class buyers to pay large sums for mediocre illuminated manuscripts. Yet Sabin’s tendentious romanticism did not go unchallenged. From December 1861, the New York bookseller George P. Philes endeavored to demythologize the scarcity, production, and value of early manuscripts in a magazine he wrote and published called, The Philobiblion—“a priced Monthly Catalogue of a choice selection of standard works, with a series of Literary Essays, and Critical Notes of rare, curious, and valuable books” [fig. 21].73

Figure 21

Bookseller George P. Philes revolutionized the sale of early manuscripts in the New York market with his magazine.

The Philobiblion. Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

  • 74 C. M. St. John, “Reminiscences of the Rare Book Trade,” Publisher’s Weekly vol. 85, no. 1 (3 Jan 19 (...)

44The title linked Philes’ own name to the fourteenth-century bibliomaniac, Richard de Bury, author of the Philobiblon. For two years Philes promoted manuscript collecting for bibliographical, aesthetic, academic, and indeed patriotic reasons. He likewise disavowed the imagined use of manuscripts by fanatical religious, inviting buyers to imagine themselves as enlightened patrons. American elites could indulge this fantasy by possessing the cultural treasures of pre-modern Europe, just like their European counterparts. It was a new approach to manuscripts and would have persisted had not Philes lost his entire printing operation in a catastrophic fire.74

  • 75 The image reproduced the portrait by Hans Holbein dated 1523 now at the Kunstmuseum Basel.
  • 76 Philes reprinted this praise in volume 2 of Philobiblion, and it was also reported in the American (...)

45The cover of Philobiblion was manifestly medieval. The decorative capitals of the title, and later its Gothic typeface, recalled medieval decorative initials. On the cover Erasmus serenely wrote a manuscript.75 A Latin inscription surrounding his portrait states, “The moment I receive any money, I will first buy Greek authors, and then some clothes.” A bibliomaniac scholar writing a manuscript suggested Philes’ mission to educate buyers who could envision themselves, however presumptuously, as heroic intellectuals in the lineage of Erasmus. The expectation was not lost on anyone in the booktrade. A review in the London Bookseller (30 September 1864) said that Philes had printed “a work which the few English booksellers who are bibliographers, and the few bibliographers who are not booksellers, will … highly prize.”76

46In fact, Philes was simply capitalizing on his fluent French by reproducing Archives du Bibliophile, published by the Parisian bookseller Anatole Claudin from February 1858. Similar bibliophile magazines had just sprung up in Paris in these years: Bulletin du Bouquiniste was published from 1857, and Claudin co-edited Annuaire du Bibliophile from 1860 to 1863. The mixed format of articles, queries, auction reports, and sales catalogues in Philobiblion was identical to that of Archives, but Philobiblion was more self-consciously medieval. Even its onion-skin paper which was intended to save money on postage resembled the uterine vellum of Pocket Bibles. Philes clearly saw himself cultivating a vogue for medieval books as much as a commercial market for them across the country—or wherever his subscribers happened to live. As a major buyer and importer of manuscripts, Philes obviously planned to capitalize on his initiative.

  • 77 Archives 9 (September 1858); Philobiblion vol. I, no. 1 (December 1861), pp 8-12.
  • 78 Ibid. 9.
  • 79 Ibid.
  • 80 Ibid.
  • 81 Ibid. 11.
  • 82 Ibid. 12.

47Philes not only appropriated the concept of Archives, however, but he also plagiarized its content. The very first issue began a serialized review of Antoine Méray’s Les Libres Precheurs, a study of fourteenth-, fifteenth-, and sixteenth-century sermonizing.77 Méray defined burlesque preaching not only as antecedent to the Reformation but as a precursor to liberty in general. The subject matter would appeal to Americans. Passages traced liberty to medieval agitators: “the convents were recruited from among the disinherited members of society. Thanks to this possibility of regeneration open to the pariahs of Europe, the serfs became free.”78 Romanticizing liberty in these terms suggested that American identity was rooted in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, monkish sermons bespoke “hot anger” and “unpolished eloquence” in “a jovial and sarcastic tone.”79 The humble authors themselves expressed a “facility for error” and a worldly dissipation, “the energy of their material appetites.”80 Their common origins enabled the monks to tell “a laughable story, which we would sooner expect to hear in the tavern than in the church.”81 Philes ventroloquized Méray’s position, that the content of medieval “monkish” sermons conveyed “the spirit of their age, its superstitious mysticism, its devout faith, its exalted virtue, its daring skepticism, its bold enquiry, its depravity, its vice, its tyranny, its freedom, its ignorance and its knowledge.”82 In other words, Philes’s humanized monks were public intellectuals, visionaries, idealists … proto-Americans. No cloistered fanatical ascetics populated his imagined Middle Ages.

  • 83 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 2 (January 1862), 00-00.
  • 84 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 3 (February 1862), 58-59.
  • 85 Ibid. 58.
  • 86 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 4 (March 1862), 81-83.
  • 87 Ibid. 82.
  • 88 Ibid. 83.

48Rather than being anonymous recluses, monks now had names. The second issue of Philobiblion featured a biography of Oliver Maillard, a Franciscan preacher and reformer.83 The third issue followed up with a sketch of Michael Menot, another fifteenth-century Franciscan.84 He preached at a time “when men began to think for themselves,”85 and excerpts from his writings document his bombastic denunciations of kings and prelates. The fourth issue treated Gabriel Barlette, the “most distinguished of the monkish preachers of the end of the fifteenth century.”86 Barlette was a reputed “sensation preacher.”87 They were all multi-dimensional. Citing coarse, xenophobic, and mildly lewd extracts,88 Philes implied that monkish reformers were human beings with endearing carnal appetites.

  • 89 Philobiblion, vol. II, no. 20 (August 1863), 179-181.
  • 90 Ibid. 180.

49Philes further humanized monks as artists and depicted writing a personal art—like penmanship was in the nineteenth century. He worked indirectly to discredit scribal anonymity, and praised four named saints as copyists. Furthermore, a column called “Gay and Grave Postscripts to Ancient Manuscripts,”89 expressed the individuality of unknown scribes in witty colophons: “Now that the book’s done, let a fine calf be given to the master”; “Let a lovely girl be given to the scribe for his quill-work.”90 Each manuscript bespoke infinite pains not only in its copying and binding, but also in the discovery and loan of texts to be copied. Popes, bishops, and abbots named and unnamed secured the exemplars for copying, making any extant manuscript potentially sourced by an eminent medieval authority.

  • 91 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 9 (August 1862), pp. 197-203; vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), pp. 221-25
  • 92 London, 1853.
  • 93 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 9 (August 1862), p. 197.
  • 94 Ibid.

50Philes exploded every cherished myth about medieval books. His serialization, “Books and Libraries in the Middle Ages,”91 was excerpted from The Bible in the Middle Ages by Leicester A. Buckingham.92 Impersonating Buckingham, Philes suggested alternative ways to appreciate manuscripts. He first chided historians who claimed that they were “the golden apples in the gardens of the Hesperides, few, precious, and inaccessible.”93 He cast doubt on the obscene expense associated with manuscript production: “According to such annalists, the student who, in those days, sought to add a few volumes to his library, was compelled to repair to the scribe with the title-deeds to a hundred acres in his pocket.”94 “Philes” instead proposed,

  • 95 Ibid.

… we are not look for an abundance of books in an age of manual transcription at all comparable to that which belongs to an age of the printing-presses; all we are entitled to expect is an abundance commensurate with the means which were possessed for their multiplication.95

51Terms like “abundant” and “inexpensive” usually do not appeal to booksellers, but Philes proposed other reasons for owning medieval books: the vicarious intellectualism of the modern Erasmus and, far more important for the collecting mania that followed his era … celebrity patronage.

  • 96 Ibid. 198.
  • 97 Ibid.
  • 98 Ibid. 199.
  • 99 Ibid.
  • 100 Ibid.

52Manuscripts, which Philes called “intellectual treasures,”96 could be found in the most renowned European abbeys. Buckingham listed thirty-eight of them. He described, moreover, how these monastic libraries has been founded and enhanced through commissions of competitive elites, including St. Louis, Cassiodorus, and Cosimo de’ Medici. He commodified manuscripts by saying, “these donations afford proof that large collections of books sometimes existed in the hands of individuals.”97 Not only did Philes validate personal ownership of former monastic property, but he has also implicitly invited potential collectors to identify with St. Louis, Cassiodorus, and the Medici. Yet emperors and kings like Charles V and Frederick II, and prelates like Richard de Bury and St. Boniface, made their manuscripts “freely accessible to all who desired to profit by their contents.”98 Piety, charity, and public education explain why the books “were gathered together, not as objects of vanity or display, but as a practical means of rendering knowledge accessible.”99 Philes depicted the monastic book-chest like a modern lending library, noting with some high-mindedness that the Council of Paris in 1212 deemed “the lending of books … among the most eminent of the works of mercy.”100 His anachronistic and idealistic view of libraries was transparently American.

  • 101 Ibid. 203.
  • 102 Ibid. 200.
  • 103 Ibid.

53By now Philes’s strategy of cultural philanthropy will be evident. He was largely speaking over the heads of his readers to John Jacob Astor, James Lenox, Robert Stuart, and other elite book collectors who identified with the Holy Roman Emperors. They were appreciative and wealthy custodians “keeping watchful guard over … monuments of intellectual exertion.”101 But if you were not a New York banking titan, your professional or middle class interests were represented by the medieval book collector, Bishop Richard de Bury, a well-born, college-educated, prosperous civic counselor. He represented Philes’s bourgeois collector or clergyman. In Philes’s terms, Richard’s ownership of manuscripts was not commercial, but reverent. Richard held spiritual motivations for owning manuscripts: “Moved … by him who alone granteth and perfecteth a good will to man, I diligently inquired what among all the offices of piety would please the Almighty and most profit the church militant.”102 Asserting that “the Monastic Libraries belonged … to the People” and existed “for the benefit of the poor,”103 Richard sounded very American.

  • 104 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), catalogue, pp. 3-4 (no. 830) was Archives no. 26 (Fe (...)
  • 105 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), catalogue, p. 4 (no. 831) was Archives no. 47 (1861) (...)
  • 106 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), p. 3 (the catalogues had separate pagination).

54As mentioned above, Philobiblion represented an experiment in placement advertising, since it was a rare book catalog masquerading as a periodical. The focus on manuscripts was intended to sell Philes’s inventory, some of which originated in Archives du Bibliophile. For example, a fifteenth-century compilation with Peter of Blois’s Liber de confessione and other works was listed for sale in the 1860 Archives.104 A New Testament on paper said to be fifteenth-century was available for $7.00, probably acquired from an 1861 issue.105 Claudin apparently had a lot of unsold inventory which was more desirable in New York. While only three of the Philobiblion manuscripts have proved traceable in modern collections, they convey the success of Philes’s advertising. Fifty dollars was asked for a thirteenth-century copy of Petrus Comestor’s Historia scholastica (now apparently NYPL Manuscripts & Archives MS 3) [fig. 22].106

Figur 22

Entries for early manuscripts in the catalogue section of The Philobiblion for September 1862.

Courtesy of The Grolier Club of New York.

  • 107 Ibid.; probably acquired from Archives 26 (February 1860), p. 85. It had been listed in issue 13 (F (...)
  • 108 Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts, etc. (New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries, 1 March 1955 lot 314). Lo (...)
  • 109 Offered in the October catalogue (vol. I, no. 11, p. 4), which accompanied the first installment of (...)

55Its description emphasizes Peter’s status as dean of St. Peter’s, Troyes; his reputation for learning and piety; his appointment as chancellor of the University of Paris; and his retirement to the abbey of St. Victor. This manuscript took up residence in the palace of New York sugar baron, Robert L. Stuart, who owned at least fifty manuscripts at his death in 1882. Less affluent collectors could acquire a copy of St. Augustine’s Soliloquies, said to be a “fine MS of the XIVth century, on vellum.”107 While missing its last leaf, the manuscript was otherwise in perfect condition and had innumerable “ornamental initial letters.” This manuscript cost $12. It was acquired by the Reverend Dr. Morgan Dix, Rector of Trinity Church in New York and a close friend to Philes.108 He had literally just been appointed Assistant Minister, but perhaps he already saw himself as one of those learned or saintly prelates mentioned by Philes. Still other, cheaper manuscripts included a parchment choir book described parenthetically as “Old Music” and said to be copied by Hermanus van Lochem in 1471.109 This, too, was acquired by Rev. Dix.

56The marketing eccentricities of Joseph Sabin and George Philes could not be starker. Sabin sold appreciative wonderment: a personal view of anonymous manuscript creators as emotionally honest, perhaps fanatical, monks who devoted lifetimes to creating and embellishing religious books. Owners could possess a man’s lifework, and enjoy a whiff of vicarious fanaticism familiar to them from recent evangelical crusades. Philes, by contrast, marketed privilege: a license to hoard precious manuscripts admired by European elites—those notional kings, prelates, and intellectuals who commissioned, and then shared, exclusive cultural property. Since the trade in early manuscripts was only inchoate at this date, there was room to accommodate multiple marketing strategies. Despite being wildly divergent, however, the public buzz created by Sabin and Philes had one thing in common: they both acknowledged the manuscript dealer’s primary challenge to sell unreadable books.

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Notes

1 A. N. L. Munby, The Formation of the Phillipps Library Up to the Year 1840, Phillipps Studies 3 (Cambridge, 1954), pp. 19: “in the private libraries of France [at the Revolution] … there were thirteen million volumes, ten million of which were destroyed or had changed hands within five years.” Jack A. Clarke estimates thatm in France alone, six million volumes in ecclesiastical possession at the Revolution were deposited at dépôts littéraires for the purposes of confiscation (“French Libraries in Transition, 1789-95,” Library Quarterly 37 (1967), 366-72, at p. 368).

2 Seymour de Ricci and W. J. Wilson, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (New York, 1935), vol. 1, p. 906, now MS 1 at the Woodstock Theological Library, Georgetown University.

3 Lawrence Kehow, ed., Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes, D.D., Archbishop of New York (New York: Lawrence Kehoe, 1866), vol. 1, p. 363 (a lecture entitled “Influence of Christianity upon Civilization,” delivered on 5 Jan. 1843): “If, again, you turn your eyes to the scientific developments of the human mind, where had it its origin and where its proudest triumphs? Just go and measure if you can the dimensions of those cathedrals and minsters which were upreared in those ages. Trace the development of the mind and the nicety and exactitude of the science by which the illuminated pages of manuscripts were lighted up. Measure those mighty domes suspended in the air, those long and lofty arches pointed in the style called Gothic, but which properly speaking is not Gothic but Christian, and you will see that these men, in what we call the ‘Dark Ages,’ but what were in reality the middle ages, the ages of transition, knew how to stretch with precision the architect’s line along the earth, and lay the foundations of noble edifices, and raise them up, and turn the stones into form and suspend them in long drawn-arches over the ‘long-drawn aisle and fretted vault.’”

4 De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.954; C. U. Faye and W. H. Bond, Supplement to the Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (New York, 1962), p. 227.

5 De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.167.

6 Elihu’s paternal grandmother Anne was the daughter of George Lloyd, bishop of Chester (d. 1615), while his paternal great-grandfather had been Richard Eaton, vicar of Great Budworth, Chester. The Speculum donated to Yale plausibly descended from either. On Yale’s library, see Diana Scarisbrick and Benjamin Zucker, Elihu Yale: Merchant, Collector and Patron (London, 2014), pp. 104-10; p.110: “it seems that there were manuscripts painted on vellum in the library, but no details are given in the sales catalogue.”

7 These manuscripts go unmentioned in the 1809 catalogue and appear first in the 1835 catalogue, where, however, the Welsh manuscript is identified as Greek, and only two of Cox’s Greek manuscripts are listed. Cox plausibly donated the manuscripts in 1817, as he prepared to return home, Cox’s biography is known largely from J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches (Philadelphia, 1881), pp. 505-8 (authored by Joseph J. Lewis). Cox’s surname was Hamilton, but he adopted “Cox” as a condition of his inheritance.

8 De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.163.

9 Thomas Jones, History of New York During the Revolutionary War, etc., ed. Edward Floyd de Lancey, vol. 1 (New York, 1879), p. 138: “ … a most elegant, large, beautiful, and well-collected library, an heirloom belonging to the Morrisania family in the County of Westchester, which had for safety been removed to Norwalk, was pillaged, carried to New York, and disposed of by the thieves.”

10 Scott Gwara, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the American South, 1798-1868 (Cayce, SC, 2016), pp. 1-2.

11 “Quarterly Meeting, January, 1803,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1 (1791-1835) [Boston, 1879], 150-56, at pp. 152-53.

12 “Quarterly Meeting [August, 1816],” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1 (1791-1835) [Boston, 1879], 256-60, at p. 257.

13 Milton McC. Gatch, ‘So Precious a Foundation’: The Library of Leander van Ess at the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (New York, 1996), pp. 137-59.

14 Washington, DC, Dominican House of Studies, s.n. (De Ricci and Wilson, Census, vol. 1, p. 462).

15 Ibid. 486.

16 Ibid. vol. 2, p. 1971; Scott Gwara, “Scott Gwara’s Review of Manuscript Sales: Fall and Winter 2017,” Manuscripts on My Mind 23 (January 2018), 3-5, at pp. 4-5.

17 Gwara, Manuscripts in the American South 2. Benton gave two to his son, R. A. Benton.

18 “An Exhibition of Oriental and European Manuscripts,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 18 (1914), 3-11, at p. 5. This is now Harvard, MS Syr. 4, dated 1198-1200.

19 Thomas Laurie, Dr. Grant and the Mountain Nestorians (Boston, 1853), p. 282.

20 John Wright, Historic Bibles in America (New York, 1905), p. 133; De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.2140.

21 Edward C. Mitchell, The Critical Handbook of the Greek New Testament (New York, 1896), p. 230; De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.1049.

22 John Gwynn, Remnants of the Later Syriac Versions of the Bible (London, 1909), p. xlviii.

23 On Hodgson’s career, see Michael O’Brien, Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life in the American South, 1810-1860 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004), vol. 1, pp. 172-77.

24 Yale, Beinecke Library MSS 17-18; De Ricci and Wilson, Census I.165.

25 Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Books (New York: McMennomy, 12 February 1819), lots 133, 135. The New York bookseller Kirk and Mercein acquired the manuscript, as well as a printed polyglot bible offered at the same time. Their 17 April 1819 advertising in The New York Daily Advertiser described the bible as a “Literary Curiosity”: “For sale by Kirk & Mercein, a folio bible beautifully executed in manuscript and highly illuminated. The Bible is of great antiquity, having been executed long before the invention of the art of printing, and exhibits an elegant specimen of the art of penmanship and patent industry of the remote period in which it was produced. Also a Polyglot Bible, in ten volumes, large folio—a beautiful edition, and in fine preservation. These rare and valuable works are offered for sale on moderate terms.” This is the first bookseller’s advertisement of a medieval book in North America.

26 William Frederick Poole, Catalogue of the Collection of Books, Manuscripts and Works of Art Belonging to Mr. Henry Probasco (privately printed, Cambridge, MA, 1873), p. iii.

27 Gwara, Manuscripts in the American South 3-12.

28 Ibid. 14.

29 Ibid. 15.

30 Ibid. 11.

31 Rich also donated a fragmentary Book of Hours to the Boston Athenaeum at least by 1827. He had been a corresponding member from 1807.

32 Henry Stevens, Recollections of James Lenox, ed. Victor H. Palsits, (New York, 1951), 52-5.

33 Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ; Psalm commentary. Stevens also bought manuscripts for George Livermore (see Critical Handbook 240: a Gospel lectionary “Bought for me by Mr. Henry Stevens, at the sale of the library of Rev. Dr. Hawtrey”). Ordering from catalogues can even be documented in Canada, where Halifax attorney Thomas Beamish Akins was buying from dealers throughout the British Isles. In some cases he was unsuccessful in obtaining what he ordered. He made first, second, and third selections. He established spending limits, reserving £5 for a pocket bible, for example. In 1855 (notably early for Canada) he landed a Book of Hours from Joseph Lilly’s Catalogue of a Very Choice and Valuable Collection of Rare, Curious, and Useful Books.

34 McKay, Auction Catalogues 5; Catalogue of a Collection of Singularly Interesting, Fine and Rare Books, etc. (London: Puttick and Simpson, 12 July 1860).

35 Washington, DC, Library of Congress MS 56; see Svato Schutzner, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books in the Library of Congress (Washington, DC, 1989), pp. 339-44.

36 Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting (University Park, PA, 1996), pp. 80-87.

37 [Evert Augustus Duyckinck], Memorial of John Allan (New York, 1864), p. 3: “ … a kind hearted man, fond of literature and art; plain in his habits, manly in his opinions: he enjoyed a well deserved reputation for probity and honor, and at his death left a valuable collection of rare books, engravings and other curiosities … the amusement and solace of a long life and an unfailing resource to his companions … .”

38 James Wynne, Private Libraries of New York (New York, 1860), p. 12; [Joseph Sabin], A Catalogue of the Books, Autographs, Engravings, and Miscellaneous Articles Belonging to the Estate of the Late John Allan (New York: Bangs, Merwin & Co., 1864) lots 42, 85, 257, 515, 1214, 1399-1401, 1568, 1762-1764, 1891-1893, 1895, 1979-1982, 1985-1986, 2140-2141, 2143, 2397-*2398, 2411, 2521.

39 “Introduction,” Transactions of the Grolier Club, part 2 (1894), 11-18, at p. 17. This was three times the estimate (William Loring Andrews, Gossip about Book Collecting (New York, 1900), pp. 24-25).

40 William Loring Andrews, The Old Booksellers of New York and Other Papers (New York, 1895), p. 25. Andrews does not mention any early manuscripts in this volume.

41 Catalogue of Valuable Old English Books (New York: Cooley & Bangs, 3 January 1838) [McKay 265]; Catalogue of Rare Scarce and Early Printed Books (New York: Cooley & Bangs, 21 February 1838) [McKay 266].

42 Auction advertising in the New-York Tribune, 10, 11, 14 December 1841, p. 3.

43 Catalogue of an Extensive Collection of Rare, Valuable and Curious Old English Books (New York: Royal Gurley & Co., 14 December 1841) [McKay 314].

44 New York Morning Courier, 15 June 1842, p. 1. The sale was scheduled for 18 June but does not appear in McKay.

45 Selections from the Libraries of Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex and Robert Southey (New York: Gurley & Hill, 18 November 1844 lots 1618-24) [McKay 380]; advertised in the NY Evening Mirror, 20 November 1844, p. 1: “seven splendidly illuminated missals upon vellum.” They originated in the second Duke of Sussex sale (Evans, 31 July 1844).

46 Advertising for it appears in the New York Morning Courier on 17 October 1846. On 20 October The Evening Courier and New York Enquirer announced that Gurley had auctioned “4 illuminated Manuscript Roman Missals of the 13th century”; Sale of a Valuable Private Library (New York: Gurley, 20 October 1846) [McKay 424]; Catalogue of a Collection of Valuable Books (New York: Gurley, 21 October 1846, but held on 20 October) [McKay 425].

47 Medieval Manuscripts from the Trivulzio Collection (New York: George A. Leavitt, 27 November 1886) [McKay 3393].

48 J. J. G. Alexander et al., The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at the New York Public Library (New York, 2005), pp. 63-5. The manuscript bears the inscription W. A. McV., the initials of John McVickar’s son.

49 Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey Thomas, The Diary of George Templeton Strong, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1952-), vol. 1, p. 13.

50 Ibid. 66.

51 James Wynne’s Private Libraries of New York (note 33, above) was compiled from Wynne’s column, “Private Libraries of New York,” published serially in the New York Evening Post from 1856-57. Wynne identified nineteen manuscripts in Strong’s possession.

52 John Howard Brown, Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States (Boston: James H. Lamb Co., 1900), vol. 1, p. 108 (s.v. Appleton, Daniel).

53 Ibid. A serialized history of the firm published in the 1886 American Bookseller records a slightly different version: “From London he went to Paris and was lucky enough to pick up there a large collection of illuminated manuscripts and rare books, which were exposed on that famous hunting ground for bibliophiles, the Quai Voltaire. The profits on this importation paid the expenses of himself and family to Europe” (15 March 1886, p. 141).

54 Fifty Years among Authors, Books and Publishers (Hartford, CT: M. A. Winter & Hatch, 1886), p. 180.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid.

57 Bouton advertised in The New York Daily Tribune (29 September 1859) that a shipment of books including “illuminated manuscripts” had just arrived from London.

58 American Literary Gazette and Publisher’s Circular 1 Oct. 1868, p. 283: “TO BOOK COLLECTORS. J. W. Bouton invites the attention of Book-buyers to his very extensive collection of CHOICE IMPORTED BOOKS, Embracing all classes of literature, and particularly Superbly Illustrated and Fine Art Works, History, and Biography, Voyages and Travels, Poetry and the Drama, Natural History, Standard and Miscellaneous Works. / Early Printed Books, Illuminated Missals, etc.”; Publisher’s Weekly vol. 6, no. 144 (17 Oct 1874), p. 430: “the finest assortment of books in vellum ever brought to this country, some two or three hundred volumes, and several thousand dollars’ worth of old illuminated missals, are now to be seen at the rooms of Mr. J. W. Bouton, 706 Broadway, New York.”

59 This rare catalogue is undated, but 1869 is the last publication date of books found in it, and Bouton had moved to 706 Broadway by 1 January 1870.

60 In November 1841, Strong took possession of a manuscript bible ordered from Payne & Foss the previous September NYPL, Manuscripts & Archives MS 4: “I’ve been in a high state of excitement all day over a magnificent MS. Bible that old Appleton got for me of Payne & Foss pursuant to my letter of last September” (Nevins and Thomas, Diary 169). At least three other Strong manuscripts from Payne & Foss can be identified.

61 It was reported that Sabin catalogued 150 “or more” private libraries, some for auction houses (Andrews, Old Booksellers 35).

62 Bibliotheca Splendidissima: Catalogue of a Sumptuous Collection of Books, etc. (New York: Bangs Brothers & Co., 15 December 1856) [McKay 719]).

63 Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Books (New York: McMennomy, 1819) [McKay 186].

64 Catalogue of the Splendid Library and Philosophical, Chemical and Astronomical Apparatus, of the Late Dr. William Howard (Baltimore: Grundy & Co., 10 December 1834).

65 Catalogue of the Library of the Late Robert Gilmor (Baltimore: Joseph Robinson, 1849).

66 [Sabin], Bibliotheca Splendidissima, p. 77.

67 Philobiblion I.1, p. 11.

68 Ibid. 9.

69 Prayer and its Answer Illustrated in the First Twenty-Five Years of the Fulton Street Prayer Meeting (New York, 1882), pp. 162-64.

70 Recent Recollections of the Anglo-American Church by a Layman, Five Years Resident in That Republic (London, 1861), vol. 2, p. 182.

71 Charles Colbert, “A Critical Medium: James Jackson Jarves’s Vision of Art History,” American Art 16 (2002), 18-35, at pp. 19-20.

72 Sartor Resartus: On Heroes and Hero-Worship (London, 1967), p. 267.

73 Philobiblion vol. 1, no. 1 (December 1861), p. 3.

74 C. M. St. John, “Reminiscences of the Rare Book Trade,” Publisher’s Weekly vol. 85, no. 1 (3 Jan 1914), p. 18.

75 The image reproduced the portrait by Hans Holbein dated 1523 now at the Kunstmuseum Basel.

76 Philes reprinted this praise in volume 2 of Philobiblion, and it was also reported in the American Literary Gazette and Publisher’s Circular, vol. 4, no. 4 (15 December 1864), p. 110.

77 Archives 9 (September 1858); Philobiblion vol. I, no. 1 (December 1861), pp 8-12.

78 Ibid. 9.

79 Ibid.

80 Ibid.

81 Ibid. 11.

82 Ibid. 12.

83 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 2 (January 1862), 00-00.

84 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 3 (February 1862), 58-59.

85 Ibid. 58.

86 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 4 (March 1862), 81-83.

87 Ibid. 82.

88 Ibid. 83.

89 Philobiblion, vol. II, no. 20 (August 1863), 179-181.

90 Ibid. 180.

91 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 9 (August 1862), pp. 197-203; vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), pp. 221-25.

92 London, 1853.

93 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 9 (August 1862), p. 197.

94 Ibid.

95 Ibid.

96 Ibid. 198.

97 Ibid.

98 Ibid. 199.

99 Ibid.

100 Ibid.

101 Ibid. 203.

102 Ibid. 200.

103 Ibid.

104 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), catalogue, pp. 3-4 (no. 830) was Archives no. 26 (February 1860), p. 107, a supplement called “Livres anciens, manuscrits et imprimés, rares, curieus, et singuliers” (no. 6982).

105 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), catalogue, p. 4 (no. 831) was Archives no. 47 (1861), p. 194.

106 Philobiblion, vol. I, no. 10 (September 1862), p. 3 (the catalogues had separate pagination).

107 Ibid.; probably acquired from Archives 26 (February 1860), p. 85. It had been listed in issue 13 (Feb 1859), p. 22.

108 Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts, etc. (New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries, 1 March 1955 lot 314). Lot 317 in this sale was the gradual of “Old Music” copied by Hermanus van Lochem, mentioned below. On their friendship, see St. John, “Reminiscences” Publisher’s Weekly 85.6 (7 February 1914), p. 409.

109 Offered in the October catalogue (vol. I, no. 11, p. 4), which accompanied the first installment of E. R. Poole’s biography of Richard de Bury, “An Account of the Life of Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham,” etc. (Philobiblion vol. I, no. 11 (October 1862), pp. 256-60; vol. I, no. 12 (November 1862), pp. 269-70); the text was lifted from E. R. Poole, The Bibliographical and Retrospective Miscellany (London, 1830), pp. 147-58.

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Scott Gwara, « Peddling Wonderment, Selling Privilege: Launching the Market for Medieval Books in Antebellum New York », Perspectives médiévales [En ligne], 41 | 2020, mis en ligne le 25 janvier 2020, consulté le 11 juillet 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/peme/20441 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/peme.20441

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Scott Gwara

Professor for English Language and Literature, College of Arts and Sciences, University Of South Carolina, United States of America

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