• <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, including The Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin. July 11, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Austen, Jane. Autograph letter, written in the third person, to her niece Anna Austen (later Lefroy), 1812. £80,000 to 100,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Smith, Adam. <i>An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations</i>. London: Printed for W. Strahan; And T. Cadell, 1776. £50,000 to 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. John Murray, 1859. £50,000 to 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, including The Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin. July 11, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Dickens, Charles. Autograph draft manuscript of "Mrs Gamp with the Strolling Players,” 1847. £40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Shepard, E.H. Two drawings from <i>Winnie-The-Pooh</i> comprising “Why, what’s the matter?” and “He was taking the balloon out…” £40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul 11:</b> Blake, William. <i>Illustrations of the Book of Job. Invented and Engraved by William Blake. Published as the Act Directs...By William Blake, 8 March 1825</i> [1826]. £20,000 to 30,000
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>De la musique avant toute chose… June 28, 2017</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Roland de Lassus. [Songs and madrigals]. Album gathering three collections of secular music for tenor. 15.000-20.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Richard Wagner. <i>Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.</i> Original edition corrected and annotated by Wagner. 60.000-80.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Claude Debussy. <i>La Damoiselle élue</i>. Lyrical poem, after D.-G. Rossetti. Limited edition of 160 copies. 6.000-8.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>De la musique avant toute chose… June 28, 2017</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Stéphane Mallarmé. Handwritten notebook made by Geneviève Mallarmé. No place or date [circa 1910]. 10.000-15.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Henri Sauguet. <i>Les Forains</i>. Ballet. Reduction for piano. Original edition. 20.000-30.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Athanasius Kircher. <i>Musurgia Universalis sive Ars Magna Consoni et Dissoni in X. Libros digesta.</i> 1650. 30.000-40.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s:<br>De la musique avant toute chose… June 28, 2017</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> François Villon, & Clément Marot. <i>Les Œuvres de François Villon de Paris, Reviewed and gathered by Clement Marot.</i> 15.000-20.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Rainer Maria Rilke. <i>Larenopfer</i> (Offrande aux dieux Lares). The second collection of Rainer Maria Rilke, containing ninety poems. 6.000-8.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Paul Éluard. <i>Capitale de la douleur.</i> One of the most beautiful poetic collections from the first surrealist wave. 15.000-20.000 €
    <b>Pierre Bergé and Associés in association with Sotheby’s, Jun 28:</b> Pierre de Ronsard. <i>Les Amours</i> ... newly augmented by him, and commented by Marc Antoine de Muret. 40.000-60.000 €

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2012 Issue

Is Top Book Auction Price for 2012 about to be Revealed?

Audbirdchris2012

From Audubon's Birds of America.

Even as we close out the Top 500 auction prices from the book world for 2011 (see article in this month's issue of AE Monthly), we may already have a preview of number 1 for 2012. Of course we don't know what may yet appear with the full year still ahead, but barely three weeks into the new year, an item will be hammered down for likely three to four times the highest price paid in 2011, maybe more. At least, that's what we can expect if estimates, and past history, are any guide.

On January 20, Christie's will be auctioning a copy of the most expensive printed book to ever be sold at auction, the double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America. It is an absolutely spectacular book, even more a work of art than a book of science, though that was its primary role when published in the first half of the 19th century. Audubon was a great artist, not an impressionist or abstract painter, but a master at reproducing birds in great and accurate detail. In the 1820s, he put together a plan to draw the birds of America. He set out to finding specimens to paint. He sought out publishers in New York and Philadelphia, and when this failed, located one in London. Audubon determined to present his images life size where possible, necessitating the large, double elephant folio size of this work. Ultimately, that would make it so expensive he could not make any money. Audubon did not achieve financial success until he later reprinted his work in the smaller, less expensive octavo size that was within the financial means of many more potential customers. However, that is a story for later, not today.

Audubon went out and drummed up a list of pre-publication subscribers. He realized this would take a long time to complete, estimating 14 years. So, he determined to send out his printed drawings in installments. The buyer would collect the pages as they arrived, and bind them in a book once received. This process went on for years, though it completed a little earlier than Audubon estimated. The printing began in 1827, and was completed in 1838. At the end, he was still broke, but as noted earlier, he would make his fortune in the 1840s after releasing the smaller edition.

Interestingly, Birds of America is not a particularly rare book. There are books you can buy for a few hundred dollars, maybe less, with only a tiny percentage of the number of copies known to exist as there are of the Birds. There were 161 subscribers to the set, but Audubon undoubtedly printed some extras. There are estimates that around 200 copies were probably printed. Most are still around, though many were either broken up of are missing parts. In 1973, Susan Low did an inventory of the known copies of the double elephant folio edition and located 119 complete copies, 108 in institutions, and 11 in private hands. Those numbers have changed little since. With the discovery of one more copy, there are now known to be 107 copies in institutions, and 13 in private hands. Since 1973, 24 copies have been sold at auction, but 14 were sold sheet by sheet, many lacking some of the plates, and another was missing a volume.

This edition has twice set the record for the highest price ever paid for a printed book at auction. In 2000, Christie's put up the copy of original subscriber George Lane Fox. This is the one that had escaped Susan Low's 1973 inventory (she described it as missing). Against an estimate of $3-$4 million, it sold for $8,802,500. It was a record at the time. However, in 2010, Sotheby's, as part of the sale of Lord Hesketh's library, offered another copy of the first edition. This copy had belonged to the eleventh subscriber, Henry Witham. Lord Hesketh purchased it in the 1950s (when it was still somewhat affordable) for £7000. Against Sotheby's estimate of £4-6 million, it sold for £7,321,250, or around $11.5 million in U.S. dollars. That, too, was a record for a printed book. In between these auctions, the Providence Athenaeum copy sold at Christie's in 2005 for a “mere” $5,616,000.

The copy to be sold by Christie's this month, it is believed, once belonged to William Henry Cavdendish, the Fourth Duke of Portland. The earliest bookplate is that of the Sixth Duke, so it is possible it was the Fifth or Sixth Duke who originally brought it into the family, but it is believed to have started with the Fourth. He was not a subscriber, but is believed to have purchased a bound copy sometime after the work was completed in 1838. If it did belong to the Fourth Duke, he would have purchased it no later than 1854, as that is when he died.

Will this latest copy to be offered fly past the high estimate, as the previous record holders did, to set a new record, or will nervous economic times hold its price down? Stay tuned. We will know soon enough.

If you wish to compete for this book, you can find all of the details on Christie's website by clicking this link.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 30:</b> Carte-de-visite album featuring a previously unrecorded image of Harriet Tubman, 1860s. Sold for $161,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Hovhannes Amira Dadian, first world atlas in Armenian, Venice, 1849. Sold for $37,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 16:</b> T.E. Lawrence, <i>Seven Pillars of Wisdom</i>, privately printed edition, inscribed, London, 1926. Sold for $62,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 14:</b> 22 large-format photographs from NASA missions, 1965-84. Sold for $43,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21: </b> Charles M. Schulz, <i>Here Comes the Big Polar Bear</i>, pen & ink, 4-panel Peanuts comic strip, 1957. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliott Erwitt, photograph of JFK & Eisenhower, signed by both, 1960. Sold for $32,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> John Milton, <i>Paradise Lost</i>, first edition, London, 1668. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 30:</b> Frederick Douglass, Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, Washington, 1880. Sold for $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> <i>Les Maîtres de l'Affiche</i>, 5 volumes, Paris, 1896-1900. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Inviting Quality Consignments</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 16:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses</i>, first edition, number 724 on handmade paper, Paris, 1922. Sold for $33,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Single leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, Mainz, 1455, in a copy of Newton's <i>A Noble Fragment</i>. Sold for $52,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 27:</b> The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. Sold for $52,500.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Online Sale of Cricket Books and Works on Paper. Now through July 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Wisden (John). <i>Cricketers' Almanack for 1896</i>, original cloth, 1896. £15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Wisden (John). <i>The Cricketers' Almanack for the year 1869</i>, excellent copy of the scarce sixth edition, 1869. £10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Wisden (John). <i>Cricketers' Almanack for 1916</i>, with tribute to W.G. Grace by Lord Harris, original cloth, 1916. £5,000 to 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Online Sale of Cricket Books and Works on Paper. Now through July 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Lillywhite (Frederick) and Arthur Haygarth. <i>Cricket Scores and Biographies of Celebrated Cricketers</i>, vol. 1 - 16 [a complete run], 1862-2003. £750 to 1,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Trumper (Victor). Postcard of Victor Trumper, signed by Trumper on image, 1905. £300 to 400
    <b>Forum Auctions, now thru Jul 5:</b> Crombie (Charles). <i>Laws of Cricket</i>, 1907; and 29 others. £150 to 200
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Walter Gibson's Complete Run of The Shadow. 48 bound volumes, 1931-44. $8,000-12,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Frederic Shoberl, The World in Miniature: Hindoostan. 6 volumes. $2,000-4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> A Rare Copy of the Earliest Chicago Newspaper to Report on the Great Fire of 1871. $6,000-8,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Broadside Proclamation by Mayor Roswell B. Mason for the Preservation of Good Order Following the Great Fire of 1871. Chicago. $4,000-6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page. Scarce and highly collectable. $15,000-20,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> John Quincy Adams. The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse. First edition. Inscribed. 1839. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Cuban Revolution: Expedicion y Desembarco del “Granma.” Havana, ca. 1959. With portraits of the Castro brothers & Che Guevara. $150-250
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Osuna Ramos. A group of 28 photographs of the Mexican Revolution & aftermath in Mexico City, 1910-1920. 4½ x 6”. $400-600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Charles Bukowski. Hot Water Music. First edition with original signed painting. 1983. $2,000-4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July 8: Rare Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Alan Ginsberg. Five Page Autographed Letter. Signed. February 10, 1971. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Andy Warhol’s Children’s Book. Featuring 12 color illustrations. Signed 5 times. 1983. $5,000-7,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions July 8:</b><br> Albrecht Durer. The Martyrdom Saint John the Evangelist. Woodcut, 1511 edition. $1,000-2,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions