Gilded by Association | Newberry

Gilded by Association

One of the things people sometimes forget about autographs is that a good deal depends on where they are. This was especially forgotten by the customer who ripped the signed page out of a book in Collectibles ten or so years ago. The signature in the book was worth more than a signature on a torn piece of paper, especially as the customer tore off a little of the last three letters of the author’s name.

Around the same time, we were given a book signed by baseball legend and answer to trivia questions Bob Feller.(Second fastest pitch ever recorded, Sporting News’s Greatest Pitcher of All Time, etc. etc.) I figured this had to be a treasure which would require me to mount an armed guard. Nope. That might have been true had it been a signed BASEBALL. A signed book? Did he ever throw books across home plate? Forget it.

The whole question of someone who signs something other than what made them famous also applies to people known for books. We had a massive number of books once from the estate of Nobel Economist T.W. Schultz. Now, the Nobels for Peace and Literature are the ones most demanded by collectors, but this is, after all, Chicago, whence roughly three hundred percent of all Nobel economists hail. They have some appeal.

And yet, none of these books was about economics. History, yes, a few art books, some philosophy…. It was a hard sell. The same thing happened when we were given the estate of architect Bertrand Goldberg, known for Marina City (also known as That Place Where The House of Blues is.) He had one or two small books on architecture, and one or two on Chicago, but mainly it was what he’d read in the way of philosophy and literature. His college textbooks were in there, but not one of these dealt with the building trade. The spare library books of legendary alderman Burton Natarus were a similar collection: not much on Chicago or politics or skateboarding. It was just what he had read, not what made him famous.

On the other hand, maybe this sort of thing excites you. Maybe you are salivating at this moment at the thought of a book which once belonged to somebody famous, regardless of what it is. Well, it isn’t signed, I’m sorry to say, but this latest donation is just right for you.

Ruth Page was and is an icon. Her path crossed those of so many of the greats of world dance that it would probably be difficult to name someone of the right era (which covers some seventy years) who did NOT dance with, dance for, or dance because of Ruth Page. Her papers are here at the Newberry, but a person’s papers contain many things which are not necessarily needed for the study of her work. Some may well be duplicates, and come to the Book fair for that reason. Do YOU want something which Ruth Page owned, which once she verifiably held in her hands? Something with obvious and definite proof that it belonged to her? (As I say: sorry, no autographs on these.)

Well, come July, you can buy her collection of Opera News. NOT Ballet News or something more particularly dancey: Opera News. Most of these still include the address label: they were delivered to Ruth Page or Ruth Page Fisher (her husband’s surname). It’s not COMPLETELY separated from her arena: she was noted for developing ballets from operas. But I’m not sure you’ll find any notes in the margins contemplating Nureyev as Pagliacci, or Ruth Ann Koesun as Brunhilde. Still…I bet she read it. We have her annual reports from the Lyric Opera, too, so she must have been involved with the Board. As Sam the Eagle pointed out: opera, ballet—culture is culture.

Want ‘em? Think it over while I try to think over the price. Collectible address labels: what next?

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