best of craigslist > SF bay area > Rare Books Library - 1535 to 1940
Originally Posted: 2009-05-11 9:03pm
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Rare Books Library - 1535 to 1940

Attention RARE BOOKS COLLECTORS

A gentleman's eclectic rare book library available to private collectors - representing a bygone era collected over 30 years by a single collector (non-dealer) and particularly popular in the UK and eastern/southern US, where families of European descent settled and stayed during and after the American Revolution. A salute to the historical, fiction and non-fiction and literary books read by almost every child in America from the 1700's onward - a legacy and keystone to Victorian cultural values for generations to enjoy.

Particularly important to those who expand their reading, writing and speaking skills through books - those that taught primarily the importance of.... PATRIOTISM, PARENTAL RESPECT, CLEANLINESS, INDUSTRY and...SHAME (a term drummed out during the 1960's and 70's). These are books that instilled MORAL PRINCIPALS to adults and children alike - in accordance with the EDUCATIONAL AIMS OF THE DAY - adherence to Christianity -allegiance to country and -consideration for others.

In place of Big Bird, Barney and the Cookie monster - they warned of dire consequences if the nation ever stopped observing the Sabbath with proper reverence; stories stressing the mutual obligations between young and old, rich and poor; excerpts from an essay by Oliver Goldsmith (beautiful bindings in these copies) on how happiness comes from within, not from external objects; numerous tales of children who strive to support their families by doing such menial tasks as selling matches or shoveling snow lest the shame of poverty descend, and above all, the importance of getting an education - Little Lucy, in the First Reader (McGuffey Reader - 1836) would "rather read than play" because children who "do not know how to read cannot learn anything but what is told to them"

The library is a testimonial to LESSONS TAUGHT (over 250 prints from the 1800's are available as well) - folio prints taken from large 19th century books - popular additions to many of the books in this library - produced by massive steam-drive presses and distributed though book illustrations or through magazine solicitation (Century, Harpers etc). Prints suitable for framing (if the book was pulled apart - not a good idea) and produced for the pre-1900 burgeoning middle-classes to be hung in family space at home.

Portions of the library are unique - 19th century Anglo-America reflecting social (economic) needs of Puritan-Republican, producer-capitalist culture of the times - a culture in which men and women were judged on the basis of character, their moral qualities, their principles, their rectitude and especially their work habits. Promotes positive thoughts through beautifully written passages (seldom re-published).

Today, stories are presented (whatever sticks on the wall) as a result of the modern advertising-supported culture heavily weighted toward ENTERTAINMENT. In the new Electronic culture, stories are controlled by those hearing them (and readers are limited to what is being presented). Advertisers pay freight to ship books, but care little, if at all, at what gets transmitted. Advertisers want AUDIENCE ATTENTION, morality being the secondary consideration. The target audience is young, affluent, and eager to experiment types - bored, blaming and aggressive toward the old ways and views.

Interestingly, books of the past were really more about STORYTELLING than today - a maximum value on this rare book collection. But, storytelling changed in the 1960's and more so with today's software (electronic copies of books can be downloaded) - happily we can load great stories we grew up as well (Dickens, Twain, London, Grant, Lee, Eisenhower, etc)

In the early modern world - lessons were DOWNLOADED FROM ABOVE. They were told vertically from the CHURCH and the COURT - and down to the people and finally DOWN to the CHILDREN. Stories were told first in song, later in paint and with the advent of the Printing Press, they were told horizontally, sideways-out, from the WRITERS, to EDITORS and PUBLISHERS; and fanlike OUTWARD to the READERS IN BOOKS (placed on shelves), MAGAZINES and NEWSPAPERS

In the contemporary world - lessons in the electronic world - stories seem to be told BOTTOM - UP - from the audience BACKWARD to the storytellers

Now, it seems, with nonexistent censorship, those in control of the storytelling machinery can be wonderfully "amoral" - caring less about which stories are told, as long as they can gather a particular audience together for a period of time - and then essentially RENTING THAT AUDIENCE'S ATTENTION TO AN ADVERTISER. The only gate they keep - is the BOTTOM LINE. Today, story tellers (of TV and film, in general) must gauge what the audience wants and sell their attention to a third party for money. That is a livelihood - not storytelling. Power today is held by advertising - less by creativity or imagination.

Print media has always carried advertising, but advertising was always subservient to the text, used as a way to lessen purchase prices. Historically, book, newspaper and magazine publishers saw their connection with the reader as - ONE OF FRIEND and GUIDE. An unfortunate commercial necessity, there were pitched battles between owners and assemblers of print media and advertising agencies. Ads were often bundled up in ghettos in the back of the book rather than allowed to intrude on the text. Family owned dynasties owned and protected the power of the print - the Scribners, Holts, etc had a tradition of caring for their readers in a rather paternalistic way. Publishing was run like a secular church - a sacred trust. The "gentle reader" idiom was part of a culture that also included a weekly "letter to the editor" or notes from the publishers desk The great publishers saw themselves as "merchants of light". Today, their counterparts exist in large conglomerates who call books "UNITS" and authors "TALENTS" - like Hollywood. So, I even find myself marketing this collection on the Internet (because it is best served to a limited audience of individual collectors desiring a complete library of historical consequences).

Books were once ruled by Victorian gatekeepers - Ministers and parents were powerful gatekeepers, but the real powers of the time (evident in these books) were the editors, publishers, teachers, manufacturers, shopkeepers. Typical of the time - every time Queen Mary visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, a vast plaster fig leaf was hooked onto the cast of Michelangelo's David. If you want a nifty barometer of how much things have changed, think only of the royal family today.

At that time - there existed a still palpable fear among the middle class that emanated from...what THEY COULD DIMLY REMEMBER FROM THE FRENCH REVOLUTION - and WHAT THEY KNEW WAS OCCURRING IN THE MID-CENTURY UPRISINGS IN EUROPE AT THE TIME - A healthy fear of the mindless mob existed. Hence, along came the Victorian SOCIAL REVOLUTION that worked TOWARD STABILITY through the mid-20th century (similar to TV's attempts at cultures of the Beaver, Disney and the Honeymooners - a mainstay for families sharing dinner together.

What was said by a contemporary historian of the 19th century could apply as well to America of the 1950's - that the "poor was striving in almost impossible circumstances of their lives to conform to middle-class standards of morality" Then in around 1960, something happened. Morality went the way of top hats and spats and the center would not hold as a result. Thereafter, cultural programming was generated - from BELOW, not ABOVE. Society began slouching toward today's CULTUREVILLE. As always, those who "control the international flow of money and information, preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning - and ultimately MANAGE THE INSTRUMENTS OF CULTURAL PRODUCTION - AND, THUS. SET THE TERMS OF PUBLIC DEBATE. Even then, the "elite", it was generally thought at the time - didn't care for the world around them - and in the words of WORDSWORTH - "Getting and spending, they lay waste OUR lives"

While these books represent the Victorian society (lots wrong - bigotry, exploitation of labor, racism, genocide in empire building) there was also plenty right about the era by comparison to today's standards. The boy's classics of the times showed societies of the world and illustrations upon which to dream about when they grew up. Children read these books and left home for adventure when they became of age. The Victorian age taught it was right to direct attention to first individual and group decencies. Victorian shame was most often directed toward the excesses of romantic narcissism - Responsibility was situated first in THE INDIVIDUAL, THEN IN THE GROUP. Public and private were well defined, and private came first. The library represents an era in which GENTILITY, RESPECTABILITY and PROPRIETY were often regarded as the GREATEST PUBLIC VIRTUES.

American youngsters have always been glutted with socializing information - and in the past they were brought up on puritan primers and print, often written by schoolteachers, historians or pastors, melodramatic in nature and stern in punishing the wayward child through shame and social control. Authors like Louis May Alcott, Aldrich and Finley tempered this zeal, but still cast the child as at risk in a world of danger. PROTECT YOURSELF, BEHAVE PROPERLY, LEARN THE MANNERS, THEN SUCCESS MAY BE YOURS.

I hope to attract private collectors of financial means, who appreciate quality rare books en bloc and seek a long-term investment that will last for generations - a library of well over 4,000 individual volumes on hundreds of fascinating topics of interest to those who value American, European literature and history.

All the books are highly illustrated in exquisite bindings and range across all categories
- nearly 30 years taken to collect en mass - each purchased by the owner in pristine condition
- most all printed prior to, during (or just after) the 1800's (ranging from 1535 to 1950).
- antiquarian books of such quality and range - found en bloc - would be difficult, if not impossible in today's marketplace. Most of similar breadth are kept as family heirlooms to build upon, hand down to children or trade or gift among friends on special occasions.

Printing dates span 400 years.
- Titles are well-recognized and read like indexes seen in US and European literature and history books. Many of us kept such books to learn about our history. Each unique book opens possibilities to expand learning more about our heritage
- Non-fiction, fiction, art and historical books, biographies and topics of interest to those familiar with western civilization and world history - including American, European and International literature, international art books as well as numerous highly illustrated books of significant historical value to eclectic book collectors. Basically, a truly unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain glimpses into the Victorian era, for example, as well as American and European history - clearly, impossible to find anywhere else in one place.

Many highly valued authors who helped build America left us a legacy of historical literature about their experiences. We owe a debt to those who contributed and sacrificed (the European, Scandinavian, Mediterranean areas, etc). We also owe gratitude to those who kept the books for us - including ancestors who grew up reading these books in their original state as children and adults - many of whom experienced the challenges and adventures of American and Western civilization first hand and wrote of their experiences for us to learn about and pass down to our children. Modern day schools cannot keep up with categories seen in this collection - there is also a shift away from teaching many basics we grew up reading about. Our country was founded on many of the traditional and cultural heritages that these books focus upon - including fascinating places and experiences they could only read and dream about at the time, but we find described in fascinating detail in these books. The Internet has made it easier to everyone to find "information" very quickly, but books are inherently valuable as bound (printed) - books will last and cannot easily be cut off or limited by modern technical problems.

Categories in the library include only the finest examples of English, Scottish, Irish, German, French, American and European Literature; Children's Books from pre1900; Color-Plate illustrations from wood, steel and copper, all being Highly Illustrated Books; Early Printed Books back to 1535; Private Press Books, thousands of Fine Bindings, Original Artwork, Manuscripts, High Spot Modern First Editions and very rare books your great-great grandparents collected and read when children, usually by candlelight. All the books were collected individually (inspected by hand) from antiquarian bookshops over 30 years of searching and purchases.

A single purchase