Q: A friend, descended from Mayflower passenger John Alden, owns a 12-by-14-inch alphabet sampler stitched in 1846 by her ancestor, Abigail Alden. She recently had it "museum quality" matted and framed. We're curious about its worth.
A: If the Alden lineage is documented, your friend's sampler could be worth around $800; without its distinguished provenance, the value falls to about $300, said dealer Amy Finkel, of M. Finkel & Daughter, 936 Pine St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107, (215) 627-7797. From Friday to April 22, Ms. Finkel is mounting a loan exhibition, "American Schoolgirl Samplers (1785 1840) from Local Collections," and offering over 50 historic samplers for sale.
Samplers matted or glued to board are not framed to museum conservation standards. They should be sewn to muslin-covered acid-free boards, and sealed in frames with UV-protective glass with spacers between the glass and sampler.
Samplers have been made since the Middle Ages. Colonists brought the practice to America from Britain. The earliest American samplers closely resemble long and narrow English ones. Later, they're distinctively American, with vibrant colors, decorative borders, and elaborate stitching of flowers, trees, leaves, vases, baskets, animals, people, churches and houses. Samplers got wider and larger as materials became less expensive.
"Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850," a two-volume illustrated history by pre-eminent collector Betty Ring, is due out this fall from Alfred A. Knopf and expected to be the definitive book on the subject.
Q:How valuable is my old hardcover edition of "Black Beauty" with a 1901 inscription? Its binding has stylized leaves and flowers in magenta, gold and silver.
A: Without seeing your volume's title page, it's impossible to determine when and where it was printed, but most old editions of "Black Beauty" fetch under $10.
From its binding, yours doesn't appear to be a valuable 1877 first edition of Anna Sewell's children's classic, published in London, with blue, red or green cloth covers featuring a horse's head facing right. The first American editions, printed in Boston in 1890, are covered with either orange paper wrappers or buff-colored boards. Well-preserved first editions are worth about $600 to $1,200 each, said dealer Lee Temares of Lee & Mike Temares Books, 50 Heights Road, Plandome, N.Y. 11030, (516) 627-8688, who will be exhibiting at the Philadelphia Book Fair at the Fort Washington, Pa., Expo Center Friday (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); (215) 757-1132.
Have a question about an antique or collectible? Write to the Solis-Cohens, P.O. Box 304, Flourtown, Pa. 19031-0304, enclosing a clear photo of the whole object and all marks, and noting its size. If you want your photo returned, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Personal replies are not possible, but questions of general interest will be answered in