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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Going, Going, Gone

We’ve been knee deep in the Civil War around here, preparing for the Civil War Begins exhibit to open next week . As you know, you can check out today’s dispatch from 1860 at But December 8 also marks an anniversary for a different war—as the day after “the day that will live in infamy” it was when the United States entered World War II in 1941.

Of course World War II and its build-up had been going on much longer in Europe and December 8 also marks the anniversary of a rare book auction held in New York in 1938, to benefit European refugees.

Dr. Rosenbach chaired the auction and the celebrity auctioneers included radio personality Major Edward Bowes, writers George Kaufman and Christopher Morley, and journalist Dorothy Thompson, who had herself been expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934. Rockwell Kent designed and donated the cover art for the catalog.

The honorary chairs of the event were Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, both of whom had fled Nazi persecution and settled in America. Both men signed our copy of the sales catalog, beneath their respective introductory texts.

(all images from Going, going, gone! Rare book auction, Hotel Plaza, New York, December 8, 1938. [New York, 1938] Ro1 938b copy 1)

Overall the event raised about $35,000, which is roughly equivalent to half a million dollars today. (For more on converting historic dollar amounts, check out Measuring Worth).

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