Fabulous Keepsake of the Newton Sale

In 1961, Thomas R. Adams (JCB Librarian from 1957-1982) gave the PPL a collection of 115 items relating to “Uncle Eddy,” or as most of us know him, A. Edward Newton. Newton was a great friend to Tom’s grandfather (John Stokes Adams) and supporter of his father (Randolph G. Adams, who ran the W. L. Clements Library at the U. of Michigan from 1923-1951).

Alfred Edward Newton (1864-1940) was a Philadelphia businessman, book collector, and the most popular writer of his age of books about literature and the joys of book collecting. After Newton died his library of over 10,000 books and manuscripts was put up for auction at Parke-Bernet Galleries by his son, E. Swift Newton. The auction was held over three days in April of 1941 and brought in $376,560 (about $5 million today). The auction catalogue was issued in three volumes; the first volume bore a picture of the collector, and each of them featured a panoramic view of his house (Oak Knoll) and his library on the endpapers (the latter shown here with his son, E. Swift Newton, sitting). For a good article on the sale, see http://www.fabsbooks.org/newton.html and http://www.fabsbooks.org/newton2.html.

On the night of the first part of the auction (April 16th) at 10:45pm, Swift Newton and his wife held an informal reception and supper for sixty-two guests at the St. Regis Hotel (5th Ave & 55th Street). Shown here is one of the invitations, which included the guest list, the menu, and the following words by Swift Newton:

“Around this table this evening are gathered many of Father’s oldest and best friends; some were his closest business associates, some were his closest friends in his book world . . . I cannot help thinking how right Mr. Swann was some years ago when he advised Father against selling his library during his lifetime. If i feel something has gone out of my living, something that has really, in point of fact, only occupied my attention since his death, imagine how he would have felt had this sale taken place while he was living and he had had to be the host of tonight! . . . As a final word of welcome, we suggest that formal speeches be tabooed . . . [but] that the Quaker Meeting formula be adhered to in only one way: when the spirit moves anyone present, let the rest of us listen with affectionate interest.”

The most interesting item (to me) that we have related to the sale is a souvenir album, inscribed by Swift to John Stokes Adams, 1864-1954, father of Randolph Adams and prominent Philadelphia attorney. The inscription reads, “Uncle John Adams: Although we understand each other in the matter of book collecting (with apologies to Randy) perhaps you will, however, accept this souvenir with the compliments and affection of the son of your oldest friend. E. Swift Newton. Oct. 6, 1941.”
There are 17 photographs in this book, some of them picturing the biggest names in the rare book field. This first picture is of the auction room. The second shown here is of (left to right) John Fleming, A. S. W. (“Rosy”) Rosenbach, and Lessing J. Rosenwald, all at or near the top of their game. Also pictured in the book are folks like Belle DaCosta Greene (Pierpont Morgan’s librarian), Arthur Swann, Christopher Morely, Gabriel Wells, and Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. (who would, a year later, endow the Houghton Library at Harvard).

1 thought on “Fabulous Keepsake of the Newton Sale

  1. >Being a long-term devoted (obsessed) AEN collector, I have a number of copies of the dinner brochure and a copy of the album, and I really appreciated the description of these Newton/Adams items.Is it possible to get a list of all the Newton/Adams items in the PPL?RegardsDaveDavid Klappholzdavidk6@gmail.comPS AEN was actually born in 1864, rather than 1863.

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