Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2012 Issue

AE Top 500 Book Auction List for 2011

Titanicreturn

Anyone care to book passage on the Titanic? Courtesy of Swann's.

As we ring out another year, it is time to take one last look back at 2011 and check out the top sales in the field of books, manuscripts and ephemera. Every year, AE compiles a list of the top 500 prices paid at auction, and this time we find that, for all the financial turmoil in the world, the well-heeled collector remains strong as ever.

There was nothing this past year to match 2010's most expensive item, an elephant folio first edition of Audubon's Birds of America. That was the most expensive printed book ever sold, coming in at well over $11 million. However, in 2011, there were 11 items that broke the million-dollar barrier, compared to just 8 in 2010. Perhaps more significantly, number 500 sold for $52,170, representing a 9% increase over number 500 in 2010, which sold for $47,806. That is a sign of depth of buying, at least in the upper end of the market.

Once again, the top of the list is dominated by manuscript and ephemeral material rather than traditional printed books. This type of material is usually one of a kind, or is more visual than are traditional books, and as a result commands the very highest prices. Some are even iconic items of today's generations, rather than antiquarian works of generations long gone. Audubon's Birds of America is the exception rather than the rule. Last year, only two traditional printed books, Audubon and a Shakespeare First Folio, made it to the Top 10, and for 2011, it is once again just two.

Before we proceed to the Top 10, and then the entire list, here are a few of the other items that made it into the Top 500.

Number 492 is a letter from a 16-year-old bride to her foster mother describing her happy new life as a homemaker. The writer of this 1942 letter was Norma Jean Dougherty. You know her as Marilyn Monroe. $52,460.

Tied at 492 is a 40-volume set of the American Statesmen, but the owner has bound extra documents into the front of the volumes autographed by a who's who list of important early Americans. There are 11 U.S. presidents represented, including Washington, Jefferson, both Adams, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant, along with a host of other statesmen, including Hamilton, Franklin, Marshall and Jay. $52,460.

Number 431 is a letter signed by “Fr. Junipero Serra” in 1777. Serra set up missions in Alta California, and was likely more responsible than anyone for the settlement of what is now the State of California. $59,375.

Number 403 is a virtually complete collection of everything published by the Paris Olympia Press and its offshoots, some 350 items from the 1950s. $62,500.

Here are a couple of tributes to pop culture. The one-year anniversary comic appearance of Superman from 1939 is number 373. $67,435. Ian Fleming reaches 365 with his tale of Goldfinger. $68,500.

Number 341 is a poster advertising the budget (third class) fares for the trip back from New York to Europe on board the Titanic. For obvious reasons, it never made that return voyage. $72,000.

Number 292 is a Bob Dylan poster with a handwritten get-well poem to Elizabeth Taylor, with “Love FOREVER Bob.” Who knew? Michael Jackson had musical competition for the lady's heart. $80,500.

Back to the Titanic. Number 265 is a collection of 8 telegrams sent by Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line, from the Carpathia to the home office. “Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning fifteenth after collison iceberg resulting serious loss life further particulars later,” he writes in the first message. $86,500.

Number 190 is a contingency checklist used on the Apollo 13 rocket after an oxygen tank explosion crippled the ship. You all know the harrowing story of the astronauts' miraculous safe return. $111,020.

Number 167 is the “birth certificate of New York,” authorization from King Charles II to Edmund Andros to take possession of the colony formerly known as New Netherland from the Dutch in 1674. $120,000.

Number 141 is a cache of 22 letters from private high school student Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis) to her then Harvard boyfriend that reveal her wit, charm and intelligence so early on. “If school days are the happiest of your life,” she writes at one point, “I'm hanging myself with my skip-rope tonight.” $134,500.

Item 124 is a far more romantic love letter, from poet John Keats to his fiancee Fanny Brawne. Writes Keats, “The power of your benediction is of not so weak a nature as to pass from the ring in four and twenty hours - it is like a sacred Chalice once consecrated and ever consecrate.” Does anyone write letters like that anymore? Of course not. They write emails like that. $153,600.

Number 70 is the first edition, first issue of perhaps the most important piece of American poetry ever written, Walt Whitman's 1855 Leaves of Grass. $230,500.

There were no First Folios this year, but even a 1664 Shakespeare Third Folio came in at number 17. $542,500.

And now, we have reached the Top 10.


Posted On: 2012-01-07 00:00
User Name: jaysnider

Great list- better commentary. Love it!


Posted On: 2012-01-07 00:00
User Name: jaysnider

Great list- better commentary. Love it!


Posted On: 2012-01-07 00:00
User Name: jaysnider

Great list- better commentary. Love it!


Posted On: 2012-01-07 00:00
User Name: jaysnider

Great list- better commentary. Love it!


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <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>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000

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