Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2011 Issue

Bernie Madoff's Books up for Auction

Madoff books

Some of the books from Bernie Madoff's Palm Beach home.

A large auction will be taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center June 3 and 4, and while not primarily a book auction, there are six lots each consisting of numerous books from their once enormously wealthy owner. That owner would be Bernard Madoff, operator of the largest Ponzi scheme ever imagined. He bilked his investors, including some of the richest and most powerful individuals and institutions in the land, out of billions of dollars. When it all came tumbling down, a fortune was lost, and the lives of investors who had most of their savings entrusted to him came crashing down as well. Mr. Madoff was tried and convicted, and sentenced to 150 years in prison. He will be well over 200 years old before he can be freed.

 

This is not a great collection, though there are books of modest value within it. Nothing indicates he was a particularly knowledgeable book collector. They come from Madoff's Palm Beach residence, which was secondary to his New York home. Perhaps he had better in New York. Nonetheless, I am sure most of us would be quite pleased having Madoff's secondary residence as our first, or owning the various jewelry, furniture, art and other accoutrements of wealth Mr. Madoff possessed. They may also be purchased at this auction. It certainly must have been fun while it lasted.

 

The first book lot includes the Cambridge Shakespeare, a limited edition that might be worth a grand or two, a Longfellow compilation, and a nice set of Dickens' works from 1876. Most volumes are inscribed, but unfortunately by Bernard Gooch Smith, not Charles Dickens. Smith was apparently a descendant of John Smith, but not the John Smith, just a John Smith.

 

The next book lot has some poetry and other works by Walter Scott. Again, these are not the premier editions. There is George Bancroft's The History of the United States, but in a fourth edition.

 

The next lot includes A History of British Birds, probably worth a few hundred dollars, and some more Shakespeare about 400 years too late to be seriously valuable.

 

The fourth lot is described as "Twenty (20) hard back books; novels & fiction." This description is repeated 12 times without ever telling us what even one of those twenty (20) books is. I will guess they are not of great value.

 

The fifth lot includes a whole mess of books and catalogues, all of modern vintage. Six are inscribed to Mr. Madoff, an embarrassment to authors such as Herman Wouk, George Kennan, and Saul Bellow, that probably gives them an ironic sort of collecting value. Even more ironic is The New York Mets, A Photographic History. Mr. Madoff's bankruptcy trustee is threatening the owner of the New York Mets with a billion (yes, billion) dollar lawsuit for withdrawals and profits made with Madoff on the grounds he either knew or should have known that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. Other titles in this lot suggest Madoff liked fishing, boats, cigars, art, wine, and Rolex watches (the latter confirmed by watches available in this sale). Ruth Madoff, Mr. Madoff's wife, has signed three of these books.

 

The sixth book lot consists of a truckload of stuff too varied to describe. Suffice it to say it is sufficient to start a library, though not a very well defined one. Everything and everyone from John Denver to Ansel Adams, Gore Vidal, President Ford, the Soviet Union, sex, health, securities, Don Quixote, you name it, is here.

 

You may bid for these books, and everything else, online if you can't be in Miami. You have to put $1,000 to bid, but it is refundable. You can find the auction at this link, but time is almost up: click here. Click "View Pictures" to see the lots. Books are found in lots 616, 617, 618, 750, 751, and 752. These books may not be among the most valuable you will ever find, but the provenance is priceless.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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