Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2012 Issue

If you like dessert ... an auction

Bunker hill account

Lot 10. Autograph letter dated 8 July 1775 providing an account of the Battle of Bunker Hill

The world of book, manuscript, map and ephemera auctions has long been dominated by the major cities in the United States and Europe.  It’s been this way so long it feels natural, even inevitable.  Over the past decade though there has been a broad proliferation of houses that, while continuing to be near major cities, are filling the interstices and increasingly demonstrating strength.  The trend is broad and deep.  In looking at the December auction schedule I’m struck by the solid strength of the offers across the entire field.  True, this month we don’t/won’t have the majestic high fliers that Sotheby’s has sold with exceptional success the past few years but we will experience strength across the spectrum and this means great material appearing consistently within the more than 80 auctions scheduled.

It is difficult, even unfair to rank these sales, because if the material that consumes you is in a particular sale, that sale for you is the important sale.  For myself important material is up for bid in four different sales, this in itself a first as I’m often lucky to find a single item that fits my criteria.

This suggests a certain realignment of the stars, an increase in the number of houses selling exceptional material and an increasingly apparent trend toward lower estimates that encourage the wider bidding that moves outcomes well beyond the lot reserves that can not legally be higher than the low estimate.  It’s a healthy trend.

This said, perhaps the most interesting sale in December is The Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector at Profiles in History in Calabasas in southern California.  The collector-consignor is probably Victor Niederhoffer based on material he is known to own that is being offered.  The descriptive term distinguished is a low barrier term used more widely in the field than is appropriate.   For this sale it absolutely applies.

The index of lots reads like a who’s who and what’s what of both American and world history.  Beyond the connections there is also the reality that many of the items are very important.  This is not a tour of thinly connected association copies.  There is real collector intelligence on display here.

To this I’ll add that the estimates are generally low and the low estimate the minimum price at which the lot will change hands.  Therefore a high percentage of the lots will sell.

This said, the conventional wisdom is that when selling in December, it’s best to sell in early December before institutional and collector money has been spent.  This sale will test that theory, as it is one of the last sales of the year.  It’s on the 18th. If at that point in the month you have any money left and the fiscal cliff has not opened into the fiscal chasm you should give the catalogue, online or on paper, a careful look.

The total of the low estimates that are also the starting bids is $4.536 million, the total of the high estimates $6,922,000.  If the sale gets traction it could be the largest-by-dollars sale of the month, even the year.

To appreciate this sale you have to browse the catalogue.  Links below will bring it up.   Here is a list of subjects from the catalogue index of all 297 lots:

[Battle of Bunker Hill] Martin Gay

[Battle of Little Big Horn] Josiah Chance

[Inquisition of Mexico and Florida]

[South Sea Company]

[Titanic, R.M.S.]

[U. S. S. Constitution]

Adams, John

Adams, John Quincy

Adams, Samuel

Alcott, Louisa May

American All-Stars

Andersen, Hans Christian

Anderson, Robert

Armstrong, Louis

Armstrong, Neil A.

Audubon, John James

Baum, L. Frank

Beethoven, Ludwig von

Bell, Alexander Graham

Berlioz, Hector

Blake, Eubie

Boswell, James

Boyle, Robert

Bradbury, Ray

Brahms, Johannes

Brown, John

Calder, Alexander

Catherine II (Catherine the Great)

Catherine de’ Medici

Catlin, George

Chandler, Raymond

Churchill, Winston

Clemens, Samuel L. (“Mark Twain”)

Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici)

Clinton, George

Cobb, Tyrus Raymond “Ty”

Cody, William F. (“Buffalo Bill”)

Colt, Samuel

Conrad, Joseph

Cooper, J. Fennimore

Cornwallis, Charles

Coryate, Thomas

Curie, Marie

Curie, Pierre

Darrow, Clarence

Darwin, Charles

David, Jacques Louis

Davis, Jefferson

DeForest, Lee

DiMaggio, Joseph

Disney, Walt

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (“Lewis Carroll”)

Donizetti, Gaetano

Dvorak, Anton

Edison, Thomas

Einstein, Albert

Eisenhower, Dwight D

Ellery, William

Emmerson, Ralph Waldo

Ferdinand V, King of Spain

Fermi, Enrico

Fillmore, Millard

Fischer, Bobby

Fitzgerald, F. Scott

Flaubert, Gustave

Flynn, Errol

Ford, Gerald R.

Forrest, Nathan Bedford

Francis I, King of France

Franklin, Benjamin

Freud, Sigmund

Galilei, Galileo

Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand

Gauguin, Paul

Gehrig, Lou

George III, King of England

Gerry, Elbridge

Gershwin, George

Grant, Ulysses S.

Greene, Nathanael

Hammerstein, Oscar, II

Hancock, John

Hemingway, Ernest

Henry II, King of France

Henry VII, King of England

Henry, Patrick

Herschel, John Frederick William

Hesse, Hermann

Hilton, James

Holiday, Billie (Eleanora Fagan)

Houdini, Harry

Houston, Samuel

Hugo, Victor

Hume, David

Jackson, Thomas J. (“Stonewall”)

James, Frank

Jay, John

Jefferson, Thomas

Jung, Carl. G

Kennedy, Edward M.

Kennedy, Jacqueline

Kern, Jerome David & Hammerstein, Oscar, II.

Key, Francis Scott

King, Martin Luther

Lawrence, Thomas Edward

Lee, Richard Henry

Lee, Robert E.

Lehar, Franz

Lennon, John

Lincoln, Abraham

Lincoln, Mary

Lindbergh, Anne Spencer Morrow

Linnaeus, Carolus

Liszt, Franz

Livingstone, David

Locke, John

London, Jack

Longfellow, Henry W. 

Louis XVI, King of France

Lowe, Sir Hudson

MacArthur, Douglas

Madison, James

Malcolm X [Little, Malcolm]

Marx, Karl (Heinrich)


Mazarin, Jules

Medieval Tally Sticks

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix

Millet, Jean Francois

Mitchell, Margaret

Monet, Claude

Monroe, James

Monroe, Marilyn

More, Thomas

Morland, Samuel

Morris, Robert

Morse, Samuel Finley Breese

Napoleon I

Napoleon I and Empress Josephine

Nelson, Horatio

Newton, Sir Isaac

Nobel, Alfred

Nobel Prize Collection

Paine, Thomas

Parrish, Maxfield

Pasteur, Louis

Patton, George S.

Peter I (Peter the Great)

Pickering, Timothy

Pissarro, Camille

Poe, Edgar Allen

Porter, Cole

Puccini, Giacomo

Rand, Ayn

Reagan, Ronald

Revere, Paul

Rochambeau, Comte de.

Rodney, Caesar

Rommel, Erwin

Roosevelt, Franklin D.

Roosevelt, Theodore

Rousseau, Jean Jacques

Rush, Benjamin

Ruth, George Herman “Babe”

Sade, Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de.

Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez de.

Schumann, Robert

Seward, William Henry

Shakespeare, William

Smith, Adam

Stanley, Henry M.

Stevenson, Robert Louis

Stowe, Harriet Beecher

Stroud, Robert (“Birdman of Alcatraz”)

Szilard, Leo

Taylor, Zachary

Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich

Thackeray, William Makepeace

Thoreau, Henry

Thornton, William

Tolkien, J.R.R.

Tyler, John

Valentino, Rudolph

Van Gogh, Vincent

Verdi, Giuseppe

Villa, Francisco (“Pancho”)

Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet

Wagner, Richard

Warren, James

Washington, George

Weill, Kurt

Wesley, John

Whitman, Walt

Whitney, Eli.

Wright, Frank Lloyd

Wright, Wilbur

To search this sale and all others upcoming and now posted on AE select Upcoming Auctions at the top of any AE page and search your terms.  Lots  are updated daily.

Here is a link to Profiles in History:


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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