Antiques & Collectibles: Antique book is a tale of Old South

An autographed 1900 first-illustrated edition of ‘The Old Gentleman of the Black Stock’ book fetched $500. Second printings are bringing $35 to $50.

Question: My photo shows a book,"The Old Gentleman of the Black Stock," given to my great-grandfather when he was young. Written by Thomas Nelson Page, illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy and published by Scribner's Sons in 1901, it has an "MA" mark on the bottom of its cover. Information about the book's "stock," its author, illustrator, odd mark and value are appreciated. - P.H., North Cape May

Answer: Originally published in 1897, the first illustrated version of the book was printed in 1900 and your second printing was offered in 1901. The man's silhouette on the novel's cover is a clue to its setting. The large, old-fashioned stiff scarf he wears - known as a cravat or stock - was customarily worn by gentlemen throughout post-bellum years during which this story of love lost and found is told.

Author Thomas Nelson Page (1853-1922) was born into wealth on a Southern plantation, but raised in near poverty during Reconstruction. He was practicing law in 1876 when he began writing popular sentimental stories about the Old South. In addition to producing 22 novels and a number of short stories set in his idealized depiction of the antebellum South, Page served as U.S. Ambassador to Italy for six years.

American artist Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952), creator of the elegant "Christy Girl," was chosen by Scribner's to illustrate its many novels written by well-known authors.

The seven Christy color illustrations in your book typically portray Page's lovely society women and dashing men who tell his tale.

The odd, conjoined gold "MA" initials on your book's cover are the signature of Margaret Neilson Armstrong (1867-1944) who designed 270 covers for Scribner's books including "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Trilby." Her distinctive art nouveau themes, use of vibrant cover cloths and inks as well as decorative gold stamping are considered desirable attributes by book collectors.

Values range from $500 for a 1900 first illustrated edition signed by Howard Chandler Christy to $35 to $50 for a 1901 second illustrated edition in very good condition.

Question: I own a 2 1/2-inch long, 18 karat yellow gold brooch given to me by a friend's aunt many years ago. It has three Xs and three Os in a straight line, is signed "Paloma Picasso" and marked "Tiffany & Co." What can you tell me about it? - H.W., Ocean City

Answer: The bar-pin style brooch, consisting of stylized "love and kisses" Xs and Os, is part of jewelry designer Paloma Picasso's "Graffiti" collection commissioned by Tiffany & Co. during the early 1980s. Initially offered in 1983, the brooch's motif also ap-pears on rings, earrings, cufflinks and pendants.

Born in Paris in 1949, Picasso is the daughter of artist Pablo Picasso and writer Francoise Gilot. Shortly after her first jewelry designs debuted in 1968, they captured a haute couture audience and her association with Tiffany since 1980 has resulted in a worldwide clientele.

Although asking prices for a brooch such as yours presently are as high as $2,200, a number have sold for $500 to $750 during the past two years.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232.


Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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