Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Interests Turned Collections

George Arents, Jr. was the grand-nephew of Major Lewis Ginter of Allen and Ginter tobacco manufacturing company, later acquired by the American Tobacco Company. With a Bachelors from Columbia University (and a  Masters degree at Syracuse University at the age of 57), Arents joined the family business and served as a member of the American Tobacco Company firm from 1896 to 1905. In 1922, he became a director and, from 1924 on, the treasurer of both the American Machine and Foundry and International Cigar Machinery, a subsidiary. For his contributions, Arents is considered one of the founders of the American Machine and Foundry. With his partner Rufus L. Patterson, Arents received a patent on a cigar-rolling machine in 1900 and eventually they produced two-thirds of the cigars manufactured in the United States.

In conversation with Sue Dickenson of Commonwealth Magazine, Arents recalled a talk given at the College of William and Mary in 1939 where he discussed some advice his great-uncle once gave him:

“On one of my many visits, Major Ginter gave me some advice which I have never forgotten; it has added greatly to my happiness and I think may be of value to many of you here – he said, ’When you are young, have many hobbies, but let your business or profession come first; as you grow older, you will have to abandon some of them, the more you have, the less you will miss those you have to give up.”

Image Courtesy of Wikicomons
In 1893 Arents purchased a pamphlet entitled “A Pinch of Snuff” for $2.25 while perusing an antique bookshop. This was the start of what would become a lifelong passion - as well as the largest and most important collection of tobacciana in the world. Perhaps the most noteworthy item in his tobacco collection is the vary rare 1507 volume of Cosmographiae Introductio by Martin Waldesmuller. As the first printed reference to tobacco, it cites an account of explorer Amerigo Vespucci having observed Native Americans chewing a certain green plant. Arents continued to collect books, images, and other paraphernalia that referenced tobacco. By 1952, five illustrated volumes were published on the collection: Tobacco, its History Illustrated by Books, Manuscripts, and Engravings in the Library of George Arents, Jr.

Rosa Macrocarpa
from Redoute's Les Roses
Arents’ other great contribution, The George Arents Collection of Books in Parts, contains over 1,200 items dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries and is one of the most important collections assembled on the subject. In the words of Sarah Augusta Dickson, the first curator of the George Arents Collection: “Books in parts may be defined as works by an author or authors which are published piecemeal over a period of time, each unit having its separate cover, usually paper or boards, and in many cases with the title-page and other preliminary matter for the volume or volumes at the end of the last part.” These items were acquired with a keen eye intent on collecting only the best copies of these publications with an emphasis on original condition and original wrapping. Several titles in bindings were added to the collection including Redouté's Les Roses and Audubon's Birds of America (the octavo edition of 1840-1844).

Californian Partridge
from Birds of America
John  James Audubon
George Arents, Jr.’s other interests included auto-racing, music, books, and sports. In 1904 he participated in his first and last international road race, the Vanderbilt Cup; unfortunately, Arents flipped his car during the race injuring himself and killing his mechanic. Always appreciative of fine music, Argents family donated a 21-bell carillon to St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue. George Arents, Jr.’s social activities included the Century Association, The Racquet and Tennis Club, the Friends of Yale Library, the Huguenot and St. Nicholas Societies, the Grolier Club, and the American Society of the French Legion of Honor.

George Arents, Jr. died in December 1960 at the age of 85. The George Arents, Jr. Collection, now in New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, is in two Georgian-style, pine-paneled rooms.

Arader Galleries is proud to offer its services in helping you find your passion and collectables. Our skilled professionals are happy to help clients begin their own collections with artwork that stuns and only gets better with age. Sample works include the finest prints of Audubon, Redouté, maps, architecturals, Americana, furniture and globes, and rare books. Below are just a few examples of what we would be delighted to show you. Further offerings may be viewed at our website:

Bayard Taylor Illustrated Library of Travel, Exploration and Adventure, Wonders of the Yellowstone

Scribner, Armstrong & Co: New York, 1875. 

Homann Heirs
Planiglobii Terrestris Mappemonde
Nuremberg: 1746
Hand-colored copperplate engraving

Andreas Cellarius (1656-1702)
Typus Selenographicus Lunaephases et Sectus Varios ad Umbrans
From Atlas Coelestis seu Harmonia Macrocosmica
Amsterdam: Schenk and Valk, 1708
Hand-colored copperplate engraving

Please contact Arader Galleries for further information. 

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