Library News (Winter 2005)

by Francis Campbell

I am happy to bring to our readers’ attention several recent donations that round out some existing holdings and also enhance the reference value of those holdings. The first of these, donated by Arturo Anievas, consists of the six original glass negatives for Ebenezer Gilbert’s “The United States Half Cents, From the First Year of Issue, 1793, to the Year When Discontinued, 1857” (Fig. 1). The negatives are an especially exciting acquisition because of the many associations they hold, and because they provide a guide to determining the print generation to which a particular copy of Gilbert’s work belongs. This can be determined by noting the deterioration of the numeral “0” under obverse 10 on plate II (Fig. 2). These glass negatives were produced by Samuel Hudson Chapman, who pioneered the application of this process in numismatic photography in sales published by him and his brother Henry during the early part of the twentieth century. While the Library does not possess any of the glass negatives used for the Chapman sales, we have, in the newly acquired negatives, a complete series of plates illustrating this photographic method. First published in 1916 by Thomas Elder, Gilbert’s work later saw copies produced by Paul Seitz, who is reported to have been Elder’s son-in-law. This rather thin volume, with its involved printing history and despite some shortcomings, remained a standard guide for some time, eventually being replaced as a reference by Roger S. Cohen’s “American Half Cents: the ‘Little Half Sisters,'” which was first published in 1971. A detailed account of the various printings of Gilbert’s work is presented by P. Scott Rubin in an article entitled “The Printing History of the Gilbert Half Cent Book.” The article appeared in the spring 1992 issue of The Asylum, and is the source of some of the information presented here.

Fig. 1. Gilbert’s “The United States Half Cents …”

Fig. 2: Glass negative of Plate II, produced by Samuel H. Chapman.

John W. Adams, Chairman of the Library Committee, has donated a number of items that he acquired at the recent sale of the John J. Ford, Jr. Library. Among these is a unique manuscript, which Ford prepared and which was contemplated as sale No. 61 in the New Netherlands auction series. The typescript catalogue is entitled “Extraordinary Collection of United States Paper Currency, Featuring notes from the Albert A. Grinnell, James M. Wade, Wayte Raymond, and Robert F. Schermerhorn collections” (Fig. 3). For reasons unknown, the notes were not included in the sixty-first sale. Nevertheless, George Kolbe describes this “sale that never was” as “an excellently written and researched manuscript, cataloguing … a notable collection.” In the late 1980s, Mrs. Ivri Wormser, wife of New Netherlands president Charles Wormser, sold the collection privately.

Fig. 3: “The Sale That Never Was” Contemplated New Netherlands sale 61.

From John Adams we have also received the original cardstock plates, with mounted photographs, used for a number of New Netherlands Coin Company auction sales. Nineteen of the twenty-six sales held by the firm between the years 1952 and 1970 are represented. Among the plates and photographs received are those for the 43rd sale, containing Crosswhite’s collection of Confederate Currency; sale 41, including Hillyer Ryder’s collection of large cents; and sale 44, containing his collection of half cents and colonials. Also received were sale 47, containing T. James Clarke’s silver and Pioneer gold; sale 49, featuring Eliasberg duplicates; and sale 60, including Pioneer gold from the Virgil Brand collection, which according to John Adams is “a strong candidate for best executed catalogue ever” (Fig. 4). When these items are added to the New Netherlands Coin Company Archive, already held by the Library, our source materials on that firm’s business history and catalogue production will be greatly enriched.

Fig. 4: Original paste-up plate, New Netherlands sale 60.