Rare Books and Art Auction

This Saturday evening at 7:00pm, the McAllen Public Library is hosting a Rare Books and Art Auction, to benefit the McAllen Book Festival. We are auctioning art prints, pottery, and rare books that have been donated to the library over the years but that do not fit within our collection, and need a home where they can be enjoyed and appreciated. We are excited to offer this opportunity to the public, and tickets can be purchased for $10 at the Main Library Circulation Desk. Wine and appetizers will be served. The auction catalog can also be viewed online.
One of the most valuable items up for auction is a self-published archival photograph album titled A Yank’s Memories of Calcutta. There are only five known library copies in the world besides our own, and an additional three for sale by private booksellers, including Christie’s auction house. This means that it is a very rare archival photograph collection. It is even more special to Texas because it has a Texas connection. It was compiled by Clyde Waddell, who was the chief photographer for the Houston Press before enlisting in the army in 1943. He was assigned to the Public Relations Staff of the Southeast Asia Command, where he was the personal press photographer for Supreme Commander Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. While on leave in Calcutta in 1945, Waddell took a series of photographs at

the urging of his friends portraying the extremes of India at the time- extreme poverty alongside extreme wealth. He was able to get very candid shots of scenes that had rarely been captured on film before. Some are market and street scenes, others are at religious temples, and others portray the extreme poverty and despair of a large segment of the population. A few of these images are very graphic, and you do not realize what is being portrayed until reading the caption. Two of the photographs are actually missing, and some clues in the captions might indicate why. Both images depicted nudity, and I suspect that some previous  and more conservative librarian deemed them inappropriate for the public. Throughout the album are photos of the GI’s, probably Waddell’s friends. At the time these photographs were taken, India was on the cusp of independence from the British Empire. The photos were taken in 1945, published in 1946, and India was independent from the British Empire by 1947. Waddell was able to capture on film an extremely pivotal moment in Indian history. For a timeline of India’s fascinating history, check out this page from PBS.

Another fascinating item up for auction is a 1967 facsimile copy of the Codex Tro-Cortesianus, also known as the Madrid Codex. It is one of only four Mayan pictorial manuscripts that have survived to the current day. For much of the manuscript’s European provenance, it was split in two and thought to be two separate manuscripts, until they were reunited in 1888. The original is housed at the Museo de América in Madrid. A few different facsimile editions have been made since then, but the one that is most widely used by scholars is the 1967 version. The entire codex has actually been digitized and can be viewed here.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica online article, “the codex contains a wealth of information on astrology and on divinatory practices. It has been of particular value to historians and anthropologists interested in identifying the various Mayan gods and reconstructing the rites that ushered in new years. It shows, for example, the Muluc years celebrated by a dance on high stilts. Also illustrated are Mayan crafts such as pottery and weaving and activities such as hunting. The Madrid Codex consists of 56 pages inscribed on both sides, formed by folding and doubling a sheet manufactured from the bark of a fig tree.”

These are just two of the fantastic items that will be up for auction on Saturday evening. Although our new facilities are wonderful, the McAllen Public Library is not a special collections library and does not have an appropriate area for storing these books and pieces of art or making them accessible to the public. We are hoping that they will find new homes where they will be preserved and appreciated. All funds will go towards the next McAllen Book Festival. The entire auction catalog can be viewed here and tickets can be purchased for $10 at the Circulation Desk at the Main Library. The event will take place this Saturday, February 28th, at 7:00pm.

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