by George F. Kolbe
Kater-Crafts: West Coast Numismatic Bookbinders
Those seriously interested in mid-20th century American coin sale catalogues are likely familiar with B.A. Martin, the bookbinder responsible for many Stack’s and Kosoff special cloth- and leather-bound editions. Located in New York City, many of the firm’s deluxe bindings incorporated a distinctive leather termed “baby calf,” noted for its smooth and glossy finish. Sometimes a small B.A. MARTIN binder’s label is found affixed to the endsheets; the firm dominated their select niche for many years.
On the west coast, Mel Kavin went into the bookbinding business in 1948, coincidently the same year that Abe Kosoff moved to Southern California. The nature of Kosoff’s special edition bindings changed, though it is unlikely that any were bound by Kater-Crafts. It was another numismatic migration a few decades later, along with the activities of a longtime Los Angeles coin and stamp firm and a Southern California numismatic bookseller, that changed the locus of numismatic special edition bookbinding to the left coast.
Q. David Bowers and James F. Ruddy moved to Hollywood, California—across the street from the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theater—in 1972. From 1979 to 1981, the firm sold the remarkable coin collection formed by the Garrett family in a series of four auction sales. Interested collectors were encouraged to subscribe to hardbound editions of the four sale catalogues and, you guessed it, the Pico Rivera firm of Kater-Crafts Bookbinders handsomely bound the series in matching black cloth. Special hardcover editions followed for major sales, with the 1982 United States Gold Coin Collection (Eliasberg) being offered in this format and the two-part 1983 and 1984 sales of coins from the collection of Virgil Brand also issued in a hardbound edition. By this point, the firm was operating as Bowers & Merena Galleries, and in 1986 made the decision to solicit subscriptions to hardbound editions of all their sales, beginning with the sale of the Ezra Cole collection.
Bound in generally matching brown grained leatherette, the production of the series kept Kater-Crafts regularly engaged for a number of years. Of particular interest to numismatic bibliophiles, the series of four Bowers and Merena 1994–1995 catalogues in black cloth showcasing the Armand Champa library were also bound by the Kavin family firm. The firm subsequently bound a number of sales, generally in blue leatherette, for American Numismatic Rarities, a coin auction company formed in 2003 after Bowers departed Bowers and Merena.
In 1976, I issued my first auction sale catalogue featuring rare and out of print numismatic literature; a second catalogue was issued later in the year. Red cloth-bound editions of both were bound by Kater-Crafts. It is a truism to say that those relying on printers to meet a deadline are often disappointed. The first Kolbe catalogue barely arrived in time for mailing and the closing date of the second sale had to be extended by two weeks. Early in 1977, while driving to my daughters’ orthodontist in Santa Ana, I spied a printing establishment on a main boulevard. Thenceforward, the Rayline Company printed our catalogues for many years, never once missing a deadline. Serendipity reared its fortuitous head that day. In the back of the eponymous printshop, Ray Peterson’s son Charles (Chuck) professionally sniffed binder’s glue and gilt-stamped book spines, while his spouse Lyn sewed signatures and billed clients. From that day and beyond, Chuck’s Book Bindery bound all of the Kolbe auction sale catalogues. After Chuck and Lyn moved to Idaho and retired several years ago, Kater-Crafts resumed binding for a short time until Kolbe and Fanning cloth editions began to be bound in Ohio. It should be noted that, in addition to Chuck’s clothbound sale catalogues, several later “deluxe hardbound editions” were concurrently bound by Kater-Crafts, among them the four main Harry W. Bass sale catalogues and both of the two John J. Ford, Jr. and Stack’s family library catalogues.
While Chuck’s Book Bindery bound the occasional numismatic sale catalogue edition for others (a few Kreisberg and Cohen sales come to mind), Kater-Crafts was far more prolific. Unmentioned until now is the exceptional series of deluxe leather-bound catalogues produced in diminutive numbers for Superior Galleries. Between 1990 and the early 2000s, Superior commissioned deluxe bindings for about a dozen and a half of these numismatic aristocrats. A number of the catalogues and their accompanying clamshell boxes or slipcases were bound in Nigerian goatskin; several were crafted in water buffalo leather, which is quite similar in appearance. A half dozen sales were offered for sale as the ultimate lot in their respective catalogues; others were apparently issued solely for presentation purposes. Binding runs ranged from ten to as few as five examples. These special editions may well be the most attractive and finely bound numismatic auction catalogues ever produced.
It should be noted that the Kater-Crafts tradition carries on. The firm has been producing the handsome series of Eric P. Newman auction sale catalogues bound in “Cardinal Red” cloth currently being distributed by Kolbe & Fanning. Information about the series is available at numislit.com.
Aldus Manutius Remembered
2015 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the renowned Italian humanist and printer, Aldus Pius Manutius, founder of the Aldine Press at Verona. Among important innovations, Manutius invented italic type and developed modern methods of punctuation. His octavo editions of the classics became the equivalent of the modern paperback book.
Aldine Press books are well known for their distinctive printer’s device, an image of a dolphin entwined around an anchor. It is an emblem familiar to collectors of Roman Imperial coins, having been adapted from the device found on the reverses of certain coins issued during the reigns of Titus and Domitian, A.D. 80–82. Seven years after the death of its founder, the Aldine Press proudly issued an edition of the first substantial printed numismatic book, De Asse et partibus eius, written in 1514 by the great French humanist, Guillaume Budé. Elegantly printed in quarto format, the 1522 Aldine edition is one of the earliest books printed in italic type, which Aldus is said to have based upon the handwriting of Petrarch.
By the by, Kolbe and Fanning recently were fortunate to acquire a quite handsome example in folio of the 1532 edition of Budé’s numismatic magnum opus, issued by another famous early printer, namely Badius Ascensius, and incorporating on the title a superb large woodcut of the firm’s printer's device depicting a printing shop in the center. We are pleased to offer it for sale. A description follows:
The Duke of Devonshire’s Exceptional Copy of the 1532 Paris Edition of Budé
Budé, Guillaume. DE ASSE ET PARTIBUS EIUS LIBRI QUINQUE, GULIELMO BUDEO PARISIENSI, A SECRETIS REGIS FRANCIE, AUCTORE. (Paris, 1532). Colophon: Finis libri quinti & ultimi Gulielmi Budæi Parisien, a Secretis Regiis de Asse & partibus eius, diligéter cú reliquis & recogniti & aucti. In Typographia Ascensiana ad Calend. April. ad calculum Romanum. M.D.XXXII. Folio [33.5 by 23.5 cm], eighteenth-century mottled brown calf; spine with six raised bands, ruled and decorated in gilt, including the Duke of Devonshire’s Crowned D device near the head; red morocco lettering piece, gilt; all page edges speckled. (8), ccii printed leaves; title printed in red and black within a fine woodcut border, with a superb large woodcut of the Badius Ascensius printer’s device of a printing shop in the center; fine woodcut criblé initials. Margins neatly ruled in red throughout; title woodcut figures accentuated by hand in yellow ink, with heart-shaped device at bottom center. Light rubbing to board edges; a crisp, fine example.
A rarely seen 1532 Paris edition of the first printed numismatic book, printed in folio by Badius Ascensius. Babelon page 66: “The hellenist Guillaume Budé (b. Paris 1467 † August 23, 1540), was a friend of Francis I who, it has been said, wrote in Latin with the skill of Varro. At the time of the reign of Louis XIV he had already put together the collection of gold and silver Roman coins upon which he was to base his book De asse et partibus eius (1514). When this treatise on numismatic metrology, as long and diffused as it was learned, was published, Erasmus proclaimed Budé ‘the prodigy of France.’” The work became the definitive study of its time, and its author “was celebrated as the principal French humanist, equal to Erasmus, or indeed superior” (Contemporaries of Erasmus, 1985, Volume I, pages 214–215). As Roberto Weiss has written, “[T]he greatest work on numismatics prior to [the] volume of Fulvio is the De Asse of Guillaume Budé, published in Paris in 1514. In this volume, which is undoubtedly the philological masterpiece of the early sixteenth century, Budé succeeded better than any of his predecessors in this area in proving, with an erudition and an exceptional acuity, the exact significance of the monetary terminology of Greek and Roman antiquity, and not only Roman but also Greek coins, in relation to those of his time” (“An English Translation of Nota,” page 17). This handsome 1532 folio Badius Ascensius edition of this numismatic landmark appears to be quite rare, going unnoticed in nearly all of the numismatic bibliographies published before Lipsius; Dekesel locates only five copies, one defective. This copy bears the bookplate of the library at Chatsworth, and is bound in the Duke of Devonshire’s binding (with a crowned D near the heard of the spine); it is included in the 1879 catalogue of the Chatsworth library (page 276). Dekesel B138. Kress 84. Lipsius 60.
Price on request.
“Slightly Foxed—But Still Desirable”
Some years ago we were given a delightful book with the above main title, further described as “Ronald Searle’s Wicked World of Book Collecting.” A recent internet search confirmed the availability of copies ranging in price from about a sawbuck to an insanely optimistic $125 (up to $950 for the limited edition!). If you have a sense of the absurd, we recommend that you obtain a copy. Searle’s book was brought to mind recently when a book site shared an amusing description of a book for sale:
“The spine is strong and serious. The covers are scuffed. Inside, the front and end pages are tanned. There is foxing throughout. The pages are clearly read, comfortable to hold, assured and companionable.”
Ronald Searle’s “Slightly Foxed” consists of dozens of brief booksellers’ descriptions gleaned over many years, accompanied by devastatingly humorous full-page colored pen and ink sketches by Searle. Their juxtaposition provides belly laughs to those of us “touched” by the allure of old books:
“Numerous critical marginal notes in a contemporary hand.”
The book concludes with a glossary of additional bookseller terms “designed to foil the devious machinations of scheming and wicked booksellers for ever more.” Among them:
Desirable: Just about worth the money, if you must have it;
Dog-eared: Moth-eaten, shabby, and/or corners of pages turned down by some barbarian;
Foxed throughout: Needs only four legs and a tail to complete;
Russia: Smooth, dyed calfskin treated with birch-bark oil by a vodka-soaked serf;
Spotted, somewhat: Splashed, stained, soiled, sullied and blemished beyond belief.
Worming: Insect fast food stop.
Kolbe & Fanning to Offer Margo Russell Library
Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers are pleased to announce that we will be offering the numismatic libraries of Margo Russell and Raymond Hale, along with other properties, in two upcoming sales.
Margo Russell is a name well-known to many in this country. She served as the editor of Coin World from 1962 to 1985, having joined its staff in 1960 as assistant editor. Not content to simply sit at her desk in Sidney, Ohio, Margo Russell became in many ways the public face of the hobby, and was a tireless advocate for coin collectors and their concerns. Her personal charm was such that she befriended many whom she first met in purely professional contexts: Mint Directors Eva Adams and Donna Pope became especially dear friends, as did Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. The many effusive inscriptions from authors of the books in her library attest to the widespread esteem in which she was held.
The name of Raymond Hale is not as well known to collectors. He was a friend of the firm as well as a customer, and would call every so often to chat about books, bust half dollars and baseball. His death last year at age 50 came as a very unpleasant surprise, and underscored the notion that we’re only the temporary caretakers of the items we collect.
These two libraries, along with other works, are being offered in a pair of sales: an online sale on July 25 and a traditional auction with printed catalogue on August 22. Both sales feature a nice selection of books on ancient and foreign coins, as well as a strong and varied offering of works on U.S. numismatics. More modest works will be offered in the July 25 online sale, with the delicacies held over for the August 22 printed sale.
As a reminder, bidders may participate in both sales in a variety of ways: regular, mail, email, phone, fax or online bidding (live or absentee). Full details will be included with the announcement for each sale. For more information, contact David Fanning at email@example.com or see the Kolbe & Fanning website at numislit.com.
Kolbe & Fanning Publish Margolis Book on Franklin Medallions
Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers are proud to announce the publication of a new landmark work by Richard Margolis:
Benjamin Franklin in Terra Cotta. Portrait Medallions by Jean-Baptiste Nini at the Chateau of Chaumont. Medallions of Franklin and of American Interest by Jean Martin Renaud. Original Models for the Libertas Americana Medal in Terra Cotta by Clodion and in Plaster by Augustin Dupré. Gahanna: Kolbe & Fanning, 2015. 13 by 10 inches, hardcover. 232 pages; illustrated in color. $195
Decades in the making, this long-awaited work is finally available. Deemed “brilliant” by John W. Adams, the book has been very favorably received by experts in the field.
Far surpassing a mere listing of varieties, Margolis’s text extensively discusses the ways in which originals can be distinguished from aftercasts and educates the reader regarding the artistic, technical and iconographic context within which these pieces were created. Extensive footnotes provide the reader with avenues to further information without clogging the primary text with minutiae. Intended to be useful to both the novice as well as the expert, the author is careful to show his thought processes, making explicit his methodology and citing his sources throughout. The handsome, large-format volume is finely illustrated throughout in full color and features a signature-sewn binding in high-quality cloth and an enticing pictorial dust jacket.
Further details, including ordering information, are available at the Kolbe & Fanning website at numislit.com.
ANA World's Fair of Money
It wouldn’t be summer without the annual American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, held this year August 11–15 in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Kolbe & Fanning will be represented at the convention, of course, at Tables 533 and 534, where we will have a wide array of numismatic books for sale. While we will bring a selection of material from our ever-growing online inventory, we have been holding back some special items just for the show. So even if you browse our website regularly, be sure to stop by and see what we’ve brought with us.