Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2012 Issue

ALDE: A Book Auction Sale at Rossini’s in Paris


“I run the one and only French auction sale house exclusively dedicated to books and manuscripts”, proudly states the 39-year-old Jérôme Delcamp. As a matter of fact, the name of his auction house, Alde, is a tribute to the Venetian printer of the Renaissance, Aldus Manutius - known in France as Alde Manuce. “When I created my business in 2004, I decided to stick to my first love, books.” As a matter of fact, Mr. Delcamp tries not to mingle too much with other specialities and chose, for the sale of October the 31st, not to rent a room at Drouot. He went just across the road instead, at “ la salle Rossini ”. “It is an independant venue, he says. The idea is to avoid the flood of curious during the exposition. People who know nothing about old books keep on coming at us with annoying questions and create disturbances during the sale itself. At Rossini’s, we enjoy a quieter atmosphere.”

On that very day, the items of the sale were stored in glass chests, at the back of the room. The buyers would constantly take a look at them, as if trying to compensate for the photographs projected on a wide screen. Books used to be shown by handlers, one by one, as called for by the auctioneer - it is now over. A voluble sexagenarian architect sitting beside me, just can’t get used to it : “ It is so far from the spirit of old books”, he sighed. There was a time when you could even walk to the stand where the physical books were exposed and take a look at them while the auction was going on. Some items would even pass from hand to hand across the room. Other times, other customs.

“First of all, says Mr. Delcamp, the less you manipulate an old book, the better. Handlers, for instance, are not always careful enough – they have damaged many books over the years. Plus, it creates disturbances.” The cruel march of modernity... Another sign of the times is the increasing number of absentee bids collected via the internet. “We also send a lot of pictures by email,” says Mr. Delcamp. “It has become as important as the printed catalogue itself. Of course, you can still freely look at the books at my bookshop before a sale.” His bookshop is called Giraud-Badin, it is located right in front of his auction house, close to the Parc du Luxembourg, not too far from La Sorbonne, in the heart of Paris. Mr. Delcamp bought it two years ago.


The sale of October the 31st was an ordinary one, composed of 300 items coming from 20 or so different clients. “It was a good sale”, says Mr. Delcamp. But some prices seemed to be quite low and my voluble architect friend felt the same : “ Some even say old books will sell less and less until the day nobody buys them any more. What do you think ?” Indeed, books seem to be losing of their glory. The elites used to consider them as the source of their knowledge and power. Nowadays, mathematics rule – and the power of books slowly fades away. To Mr. Delcamp, the market remains “steady ”. He admits, nevertheless, that whereas books of exception tend to sell pretty good, it has become hard to sell the “ordinary” ones. Our architect giggled : “ The cheaper the prices, the better... for me ! ” As long as buyers think this way, old books have bright days ahead.

Ups and downs of a sale

- Conestaggio (Girolamo). De Portugalliae... Francfort, 1602. In-8, full contemporary red-morroco with a provenance. Appraisal : 3,000 / 3,500 euros.

“It was disappointing, says Mr. Delcamp. This is an interesting book, relating the conquest of Portugal by Spain in 1580. The binding was attractive, though...” The book never met the reserve price – but it was not in the best of condition : it had foxing all through-out and the binding was not that tight.

- Heures à l’usage de Paris [Paris, circa 1500]. On vellum, 162 pp, 79 hand made figures by Le Maître de la Chronique Scandaleuse and Le Maître d’Etienne Poncher. Appraisal : 60,000 / 80,000 euros.

One of the two main items of the sale, a XVIth century book of hours with gorgeous figures. Seven pages of the catalogue were dedicated to this beauty from another time but it did not go over 60,000 euros. To Mr. Delcamp, it is not a bad result : “ The book was simply very justly estimated. ” As a matter of fact, an expert from Paris, Bertrand Meaudre, had been specially called upon for this particular book. The other items had been expertised by Dominique Courvoisier.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <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>

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