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Dada is 100 Years Old!

by AndreChevalier on February 5, 2016

Dada Tzara JancoWhile critics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are becoming increasingly vocal against her open-door policy that allowed 1.1 million migrants to enter Germany last year, history may be on her side. A century ago in the middle of World War I, immigrant artists from all over Europe, energized by a sense of outrage against the war, settled in the safety of Swiss Zurich and helped start the Dada movement. The first Dadaist performance was staged on February 5th 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire, which is presently hosting a centennial celebration tomorrow, February 5th, 2016.

As part of the 100th year anniversary, the bookseller’s fair at the Kunsthaus Zurich, is dedicating this year’s 21 Antiquarian Fair to 100 Jahre Dada Zürich. New York’s Museum of Modern Art will also feature a special exhibit, Dadaglobe Reconstructed, this summer, after its debut at Kunsthaus Zurich, this month. Zurich’s Dada celebration will continue through the year with the Manifesta 11 European art show and with Museum Rietberg’s presentation of the exhibit Dada Afrika, in March.

These events are geared to live up to the central theme of the Dada movement: “to promote art and challenge the existing accepted definitions of art.” Modern art styles that trace their roots back to Dada include the avant-garde and downtown music movements, with groups including surrealism, punk rock, Nouveau Réalisme, pop art and Fluxus.

1916 Zurich was also the home of James Joyce, who was writing Ulysses at the time, but not quite consumed by the movement. The key Dadaist figures were in fact, Romanian Tristan Tzara, German Hugo Ball and his lover Emmy Hennings, the Frenchman Jean Arp, and the Swiss Sophie Taeuber. Soon after, they recruited Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Johannes Baader, Francis Picabia, Richard Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, George Grosz, Man Ray, Beatrice Wood, Kurt Schwitters, Hans Richter, and Max Ernst, among others.

With such a diverse group of followers, book collectors have a great deal of Dada material to cheer about. One particular book that stands out above the rest is La première Aventure céléste (sic) de Mr. Antipyrine. Dated 28 July 1916 in the justification, the first publication of the Collection Dada and possibly the first Dada imprint is Tristan Tzara’s first book, which was published when he was nineteen years old. It contains a selection of his early verse, African chants, and the first Dada manifesto accompanied by 8 original color linocuts by Marcel Janco, which contain 6 full-page in teal blue and black, and 2 in black (front cover and cul-de-lampe illustration). 510 copies of the book were published, in Zürich by Collection Dada/ Imprimerie J. Heuberger, in grey wraps with images that are 170 x 90 mm. (6 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches) in size.


Dada Tzara Janco

At the Importants Livres Anciens, Livres d’Artistes et Manuscrits auction event held at Christie’s Paris on the 29th of April 2013, a copy of the book with a Tzara dedication, sold for €11,250. Presently, an even more attractive historic early presentation that is inscribed by both Tzara and Janco on the inner front cover is offered for sale by Ars Libri of Boston for $20,000.

Janco’s art in La première Aventure céléste (sic) de Mr. Antipyrine, appears chaotic and brutal, mirroring the maelstrom of the time during World War I. Tzara, unable to pay the rent at Cabaret Voltaire, was forced to move to other venues and collaborate with Janco on this original work. The artistic force that emerged from the brutality and suffering of the surrounding realities, is the true spirit of Dada. It re-emerges again and again through artistic frenzy, a force powerful enough to obstruct reality and change the world in a movement. Dadaists’ fascination with non-European art may once again be in the hands of immigrant artists.


Dada Tzara Janco





Rare Book Sale MonitorHow exciting to investors could the introduction of a mutual fund that invests solely in rare books be? Before you rule that everything about it is controversial, consider this: The mutual fund industry has embraced alternative investing 1 sixty plus years later from the time that Harry Markowitz conducted his breakthrough research on portfolio theory based on the simple concept of maximizing profit while minimizing risk. Similar to the way mutual funds made owning stocks and bonds more accessible to smaller investors, alternatives brought hedge-fund strategies within the reach of smaller investors. So why is a fund that invests in rare books such a radical idea?

Perhaps the most striking skepticism that collectible rare book investors have is due to the illiquidity of tangible assets. Historically, the rare books marketplace has exhibited a rather “slow but steady” path to value appreciation without the volatility that today’s stock market is famous for. Mutual fund investors expect to have the ability to trade, whether buying or selling, at the price they are told the asset is worth, on any given trading day. In other words, provide liquidity at the expense of volatility. In today’s prevailing stock market conditions, the majority of investors are perhaps more likely to choose less volatility with a market that is “slow but steady.”

A fairly new development aiming to ease liquidity concerns associated with alternative investments, allows for one fund to borrow cash from another fund after receiving approval from the SEC. According to Barron’s, 14 firms – including Vanguard, Fidelity, Dodge & Cox, Ivy and Alger, have received approval to make such interfund loans. BlackRock and Lord Abbett filed their own applications for approval before the end of 2015.

Investors may also have transparency concerns. A rare book is, by nature, a unique heterogeneous collectible that may offer no comparables or substitutes. How does an investor know that the price approximations employed are accurately reflecting its fair value, without a prior trade to record a sale price? It is important to realize that even the most commonly used indexes, such as the Nasdaq Composite and the Consumer Price Index (CPI), are rough approximations of measuring real value. The CPI for example, is tracking the homeownership component, by estimating what homeowners would pay themselves, if they were renting from themselves, by finding comparable homes being rented; an imperfect process to say the least. When the Nasdaq Composite hit its nominal high in April of 2015, it took approximations to figure out whether in fact, that was also the time that it reached its real high, which takes into consideration inflation. Given that the approximations of the CPI measurement are the ingredients being used to factor in inflation, the real value appreciation may not be accurate.

As much as the CPI and other indexes are in need of improvement, they serve their purpose as very rough approximations of overall price change. Our Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM), the index that provides a rough approximation of the overall rare book marketplace’s value, is constantly being challenged to improve on the following outcomes:

  • Appropriateness of type of information provided.
  • Accuracy of data.
  • Timeliness of reporting.
  • Adequate level of detail.
  • Organization and depth of analysis.

While the genre/author breakdown has been static, the books that are being monitored are frequently being switched. This is due to the unique nature of rare books and the fact that they may be irreplaceable. Many times, the frequently traded collections being tracked, reach a point of extreme scarcity and increasing demand, thus driving the ask price too high for a trade to take place. Such reporting exceptions require corrective action which requires substituting the now scarce item with a comparable item that is more frequently traded within the same genre/author grouping.

Authors are more likely to be completely replaced once the activity of their offerings reaches a level of inactivity that fails to record a statistically significant number of trades. Back in the 3rd Quarter of 2012, it was necessary to substitute Jonathan Swift with Ian Fleming, due to lack of trading activity in the case of the former.

The specific attributes of a unique book can affect not only its value but its marketability. For example, an inscription by the author to a well known personality, or (what is known as an association copy), is bound to command a premium because of its uniqueness. Hiking the ask price considerably may and does reduce its marketability. Again, a situation of no trade recorded, offers no data to the Rare Book Sale Monitor to process.

The sample of titles in use by the Rare Book sale Monitor is the key component to the appropriateness of the type of information provided. Last quarter we provided a list of leaders and laggards with future projections for the months ahead. Beginning next quarter we will begin to actively report on the individual book titles behind the trends recorded.


Rare Book Sale Monitor Q4 2015

RBSM 2015 Q4 – Genre Breakdown

Rare Book Sale Monitor 4th Quarter 2016

RBSM 2015 Q4 – Author Breakdown



1Wikipedia: An alternative investment is an investment in asset classes other than stocks, bonds, and cash. The term is a relatively loose one and includes tangible assets such as precious metals, art, wine, antiques, coins, stamps, real estate, commodities.


New Year Wishes from Shakespeare & Company

December 31, 2015
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Forty years ago, John Lennon, in his Christmas melody song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” wished everyone: So this is Xmas And what have you done Another year over And a new one just begun …. A very Merry Xmas And a happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear As […]

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Kay Thompson’s Christmas Message to All

December 17, 2015
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As Christmas steadily approaches, it is nearly impossible to refrain from experiencing some form of stress or another, when one reflects (often with dread) on the countless lists of tasks and responsibilities that demand one’s attention before December 25th arrives. It is during these frantic and frenzied moments that a simple pause in a comfortable […]

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The Death-Effect in Rare Books

December 4, 2015
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The most collectible P.D. James novel is the 1962 London first edition, of “Cover her Face” that comes with its original dust wrapper and is signed by the author. During the later years of the crime mystery author’s life, the book had been trading around £6,000. A year ago, when Faber & Faber announced the […]

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November 20, 2015

The collecting world probably seems nuts to sane people. In books, as with other things, it is astonishing how very small things that would pass unnoticed to a novice can keep serious collectors up at night.   “Dear Mr. Dawson,             I saw your website and wanted to see if you would be interested in […]

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November 6, 2015

The production of richly illuminated manuscripts continued well after the invention of the printing press. A good example of their value for research in cultural history, in particular the history of portraits1 , is provided by the sumptuous manuscript of Petrarch’s poems in Italian (4648 Bd. Ms 24+) produced in Florence around 1465-70 and acquired […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor Update – 3rd Quarter 2015

October 16, 2015
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The Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM) has been tracking the sales performance of “blue chips” for some of the major genre of rare books. In addition the author breakdown follows some of the most frequently traded authors of books that are considered rare, in order to track their performance. The sampling selection included in each […]

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Introducing: Rare Book Offer Manager (RBOM)

October 2, 2015
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Alternative type investment mutual funds are often pitched as providing decent returns that are not tied to the fate of stocks or bonds. But getting the right asset mix to deliver on both of these goals has proven quite difficult. Alternative fund strategies, in addition to providing diversification, cushion stock-heavy portfolios by reducing volatility. During […]

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Alice is 150 years old, but she doesn’t look it!

September 16, 2015
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Printed books usually sit around, demanding very little to survive. Water, mold, smoke, dirt, direct sunlight, insects, bad shelving, fire, human misuse are enemies to avoid for a healthy long life that guarantees a book to outlive its creators. Long lifespan coupled with popularity, may lead to production of multiple new editions, revisions, foreign language translations […]

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