Book Auction Dinner.New York: Joint Distribution Committee and Committee for Christian German Refugees, 1938 Stock Code: 146456
Signed by Einstein, Mann, and RosenbachFirst edition, signed by Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, and Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach under their respective forewords and prefaces; the catalogue for a charity rare book auction for the benefit of German refugees, held on December 8, 1938.
The sale was arranged by legendary American rare book dealer A. S. W. Rosenbach, who for decades supplied the American captains of industry, including Folger, Morgan, and Huntington, with the remarkable books that are still the cornerstones of their libraries. The sale was held at his New York premises. Thomas Mann contributed for the auction the original manuscript of his lecture on "Richard Wagner and the Nibelungen Ring", writing in his foreword "It gives me pleasure to be able to send this contribution for this good and noble cause".
Albert Einstein, also like Mann a refugee from Nazi Germany, and who campaigned tirelessly for the rights of the refugees, contributes the preface: "This catalogue bears witness to an undertaking of practical aid on behalf of peoples in Europe who are being unjustly persecuted. It is an act of joint cooperation on the part of Christian and Jewish philanthropists, who serve and remain true to the cause of humanity. Such efforts mitigate grievous distress and, over and above all this, strengthen those social forces in their own land, which alone can lead to real and lasting security. May this endeavour be successful in its immediate, material result as well as in regard to the convictions that emanate from it". Einstein donated a three thousand word manuscript on anti-Semitism for the auction.
The books for sale range from incunabula and books of hours, to the publications of the Kelmscott and Nonesuch Presses, and original manuscripts by Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. Rockwell Kent provided an illustration for the front cover, entitled "Books Make the Home", the original drawing of which was included as part of the auction. The items were catalogued by John Fleming, then Rosenbach's employee, later his de facto successor, purchasing Rosenbach's stock upon his death in 1952, and writing Rosenbach's biography with Edwin Wolf.
In his biography, Fleming notes that the sale was something of a disappointment to Rosenbach, though hailed as a success by the attendees. "For months beforehand the Doctor badgered all his book friends to send in contributions to be sold that night... Major Bowes, Pearl Buck, Theodore Dreiser, Edna Ferber, Robert Frost, and Edna St. Vincent Millay joined with such book collectors as Goodhart, Hogan, Hofer, Houghton, Grenville Kane, Newton, Pforzheimer, and Rosenwald to send in books and manuscripts for sale... there were almost two hundred lots in all. It was quite a tribute to Dr. Rosenbach's ability to get collectors and authors to give away something they cherished... Amid the flow of speeches only forty-five lots were sold for a total of 17,240. About as much again was raised by private sale after the dinner. Dr. Rosenbach, who had secured the books and the buyers, felt somewhat let down by his loquacious auctioneers. Almost everybody else thought it had been a memorable evening and it was hailed as a great success" (Fleming and Wolf, pp. 465-6).
The original owner of this catalogue was apparently the American book collector and businessman Lessing J. Rosenwald, with a birthday card from Rosenwald to his son loosely inserted. Rosenwald served as chairman of Sears from 1932 to 1939, whereafter he dedicated himself full time to the collection of rare books, a collection now held in the Library of Congress. Rosenwald donated books to the sale, as is recorded by Fleming and Wolf. An advertisement ticket for the auction is also loosely inserted, as are a couple of newspaper clippings on the auction, from the New York Times (27 November 1938). The catalogue notes a number of morocco cases were to be made specially for the catalogue by the Scroll Club Bindery, which is presumably the origin of the present case.
Octavo. Original wrappers by the Trade Bindery, front cover lettered in black with original design by Rockwell Kent. Housed in contemporary custom red cloth chemise and half morocco box.
Small nick and crease to front wrapper fore edge, title verso and facing page with offsetting from inserted newspaper clipping; a near-fine copy.
Edwin Wolf II and John F. Fleming, Rosenbach, 1960.
With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.
Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220