In Pursuit of Irving Rosenwater’s Legacy

Regular readers of this blog, well as regular as you can be when it gets updated so rarely, will have gathered that I am a great admirer of the late Irving Rosenwater. I wrote an initial piece about him here, an effort that bore fruit in the sense that a family member then reached out to me, and I then acquired sufficient new material to pen this one.

And that I thought would be that. By the time I wrote the second post I had already managed to acquire just about all of the limited editions I had written about in the first, so Irving Rosenwater rather slipped to the back of my mind. From time to time I would see various Rosenwaters turn up in auctions and in dealers’ catalogues, although such sightings were generally disappointing as values have certainly not been increasing.

It was no surprise to see a few more turn up in Knights Auction catalogue in November 2022, but what I hadn’t expected to see was Lot 1,326, Irving’s own copies of his limited edition publications. There were 38 of them altogether, most of them encased in envelopes that Irving had created himself. All, of course, were number one of the run.

I was reminded as I read through the listing that the self same collection had been sold at Christies in 2012, the hammer on that occasion dropping at £6,000. The Knights estimate was £3,000 to £5,000, either demonstrating a somewhat fragile state for the memorabilia market at the present time or that interest in Rosenwater is on the wane or, heaven forfend, both.

Hand on heart I really did not intend to bid, and I think even my wife is prepared to accept that, but as the auction wore on I thought perhaps I should. The reason not to was, naturally, the fact that I had almost all the booklets anyway, but then I kept coming back to the idea that the acquisition of Irving’s own personal archive was an opportunity I should not pass up completely. 

So I chose to compromise. I decided that I had to be prepared to bid up to £3,000. Even taking into account the buyer’s premium that would still produce an average cost of only fractionally over £100 for each booklet, and for that I would have something very special indeed. The complementary thought, that being the amount I had already spent, is not something I have dwelt on at any length.

I never expected the bid to succeed but, as no one came in at all, I certainly couldn’t allow Lot 1,326 to be passed, so I opened up at £2,600. That immediately prompted someone to push that to £2,800 so I went up to my maximum safe in the knowledge, so I thought, that the real bidders could then start. But they didn’t, and after what seemed like an interminable time the hammer came down.

So I am now, despite Royal Mail’s Special Delivery Service entirely failing to cover itself in glory in the following weeks, the proud owner of a full set of Rosenwaters, all bar two being the author’s personal copies. And what are those two? Well he did do one limited edition that was nothing to do with cricket, and another that it looks like he was on the brink of finalising when he died. Having sourced those two elsewhere over the years I can add them, together with the other correspondence that Rosenwater’s niece kindly passed to me, to this collection. With a bit of luck and a fair wind it will be many years yet before Irving’s archive comes up for sale again, but I do hope my heirs do rather better than my vendor did.

Which begs the question as to what I might be able to do to assist them in their endeavours, and that can only be to do what I can to foster interest in this fascinating body of work, so in the coming weeks I will review each and every one of Irving Rosenwater’s published works.

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