In today's New York Times, Dennis Overbye muses about some of the lots in the Christie's sale of Richard Green's scientific books, which I mentioned in yesterday's post. Overbye writes "It was a thrill to hold Copernicus in my hands on a recent visit to the back rooms of Christie’s and flip through its hallowed pages as if it were my personal invitation to the Enlightenment. No serious library should be without one. Just in case you are missing your own copy, you can pick up this one for about the price of a Manhattan apartment next Tuesday."
Overbye runs through the litany of Great Names to be found in the Green collection, then adds: "Pawing through these jaw droppers, I found my attention being drawn again and again to a small white book, barely more than a pamphlet, a time machine that took me back to a more recent revolution. It was the directory for [the] world’s first commercial phone system, Volume 1, No. 1, published in New Haven by the Connecticut District Telephone Company in November 1878, future issues to be published 'from time to time, as the nature of the service requires.' ... The first directory consisted of a single sheet listing the names of 50 subscribers, according to lore. By November, the network had grown to 391 subscribers, identified by name and address — phone numbers did not yet exist. And the phone book, although skimpy, had already taken the form in which it would become the fat doorstop of today, with advertisements and listings of businesses in the back — 22 physicians and 22 carriage manufacturers, among others."
The first phone book isn't expected to fetch quite as much as the Copernicus - you could have that for a mere $30,000-40,000, if estimates hold.