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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

A Moveable Feast for the Eyes

Pick Your Partners for the Inaugural Ball

Dance Card for the Union Ball in Honor of the Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, $3,840 at Swann Galleries of New York on December 1.

A dance card issued to the guests at Lincoln’s inaugural ball in 1861. Courtesy of Swann Galleries.

These cards, with die-cut decorative border and a ribbon through one corner, were issued to guests at the inauguration ball in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1861. On the second of the four pages are listed the twenty-three planned dances that will take place to the music provided by L. F. Weber’s band, while on the third is space to write in one’s partner for each dance. On the rear panel are printed the names of Lincoln and his vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, around an illustration of a bald eagle, captioned “The Constitution.”

Invitations to the ball appear from time to time and sell for upwards of $8,000, but Swann could find no previous record of a dance card at auction.

Come to Cape Fear!

William Hilton, A Brief Description of the Province of Carolina on the Coasts of Florida…, $114,000 at Brunk Auctions of Asheville, North Carolina, September 24-25.

The first printed map dealing solely with the Carolinas, from William Hilton’s A Brief Description of the Province of Carolina on the Coasts of Florida. Courtesy of Brunk Auctions.

A promotional tract published in London in 1666, this is one of the earlier works on the Carolinas and, containing “a most accurate Map of the while Province,” is particularly concerned with “a New-Plantation begun by the English at Cape Feare,” on the Charles River.

In 1662, an expedition to the Cape Fear region had been led by Captain Hilton on behalf of the New England Company, and his report prompted some Massachusetts Puritans to make an initial, unsuccessful attempt at settlement. In the following year, however, Charles II granted proprietorship of the colony to eight English noblemen and courtiers, the Lords Proprietors, thus effectively ending that New England company’s speculation on the region’s suitability for settlements.

Hilton was then employed by the new owners to lead a second expedition, and it is an account of that journey that forms the core of this tract. The map, however, is based on charts he produced during his earlier expedition and is the first printed map dealing solely with the Carolinas.

This copy in its twentieth-century full crushed morocco binding had been acquired in 1920 by James Sprunt, whose family home, the Orton Plantation of Wilmington, North Carolina, was sold last year

Americana and travel specialist, Bill Reese, kindly pointed me to the last saleroom appearance of this rare tract. In a 1987 Sotheby’s London sale of the Robinson brothers’ collections, a copy in modern half morocco sold at £13,200, and the very next year came back to auction at Sotheby’s New York, where it reached $27,500.

Reese remembers this well, as he was the underbidder on both occasions. He was not bidding this time, but then he knew both of the collectors who ended up contesting it to four times the predicted sum.

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Derek HayesIan McKay’s weekly column in Antiques Trade Gazette has been running for more than 30 years.