• <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Andrew Wyeth, an archive of 43 unpublished letters. $80,000-120,000 [lot 1106]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Abraham Lincoln, signed document granting pensions to surviving Revolutionary War Veterans, 1865. $60,000-80,000 [lot 1058]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Forlani Map of North America, 1566. $40,000-60,000 [lot 1555]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> <i>Journal des Dames et des Modes</i>, 1912-1914. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1294]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Rouen, late 14th Century. $30,000-40,000 [lot 1162]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Schedel, World Map, 1493. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1589]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Sir Isaac Newton’s copy of <i>Le Grand’s Institutio Philosophiae</i>, 1675. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1308]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Muhammad Mu'min Husaini’s Tuhfat al-Mu'minin, 17th century Persian medical manuscript on paper. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1118]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Persian Calligraphy, an album. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1119]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Edgar Allan Poe, <i>Tales</i>, New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845. $3,00-5,000 [lot 1361]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> English New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1582, first edition. $10,000-15,000 [lot 1154]
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), An Original Manuscript Page of text from <i>Finnegan’s Wake</i>, the opening of the Anna Livia Plurabelle section. €7,500-10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Chamber Music,</i> 1907. First Edition of his First Book, First Issue. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Lady Gregory’s Copy Signed by W.B. Yeats, Cuala Press: Yeats (W.B.), <i>Poems Written in Discouragement</i>, 1913. Limited to 50 Copies Only. €2,500-4,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> A Twentieth Century Masterpiece: O’Brien (Flann), <i>At Swim-Two-Birds</i>, 8vo, 1939. First Edn. €1,750-2,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> The Missing Log of the H.M.S. Liffey Manuscript Journal, 1867. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Exceptionally Rare First Publication: Gregory (Augusta Lady), <i>Over the River: An appeal for aid to a poor parish in South London</i>. 1887. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Ex. Rare Irish Broadsheet: An Irish Perspective on the Execution of Louis XVI, 1793 Broadsheet with engraving of the event, headed: “Massacre of the French King.” €500-700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Original Manuscript Poem, Heaney (Seamus), <i>The Schoolbag</i>. In Memoriam John Hewitt. Signed and dated November 8 1991. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Sowerby (J.E.), <i>English Botany; or Coloured Figures of British Plants</i>. Ed. by J.T. Boswell Syme. 10 vols, with 1696 hand-coloured plates. €750-1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Collection of Signed First Editions incl. Francis (Dick), <i>Nerve</i> (London 1964); <i>For Kicks</i> (London 1965); <i>Forfeit</i> (London 1968). €400-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Le Carre (John), <i>The Spy who came in from the Cold</i>, 8vo, 1963, First Edn., with author’s signature tipped in on t.p. €350-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Adams (Richard), <i>Watership Down</i>, 8vo, 1976, First Illustrated Edn., Signed on f.e.p. by Author & Artist, and also signed by Artist on hf. title. €200-300
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>Shaw & Nodder, <i>The Naturalist's Miscellany</i>, complete, London, 1789-1813. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Samuel Baker, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Island of St. Christopher</i>, London, 1753. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Henry Briggs, <i>The North Part of America</i>, London, 1625. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Herring Gull</i>, CCXCI, hand-colored plate, London, 1836. $7,000 to $10,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Montanus & Ogilby, <i>America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World</i>, London, 1671. $10,000 to $15,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Robert Cruikshank, portfolio of 25 watercolors, London, 1830s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Group of 55 French watercolors depicting the life and deeds of Napoleon, 1800s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Aaron & Samuel Arrowsmith, <i>Chart of the Sandwich Islands</i>, London, 1830. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Herman Moll, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain</i>, London, 1735. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Jacques-Nicolas Bellin,<i> L'Hydrographie Françoise</i>, Paris, circa 1770. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, <i>Charlestown the Capital of South Carolina</i>, London, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Arnold Colom, <i>Pascaarte van Nieu Nederlandt</i>, Amsterdam, circa 1658. $7,000 to $10,000.
  • <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Hobson, R.L. <i>A catalogue of Chinese pottery and porcelain in the collection of Sir Percival David</i> (London, 1934). Est. € 8.000-10.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Chagall, M. <i>Drawings for the bible</i>. (Paris, 1960). Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Delft kabels</i> (Delft, 1933). Est. € 20.000-30.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Normalieënboekje</i> (Delft, 1924-1926). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Russian children's books]. Mayakovsky, V. Kem byt'? (What to be?) (Moscow, 1932). Est. € 500-700
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Léger, F.]. Cendrars, B. <i>La Fin du Monde filmée par l'Ange</i> N.-D (Paris, 1919). Est. € 2.000-3.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Roche, E. <i>Indische Baukunst</i> (Munich, 1921-1922). Est. € 3.000-5.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> Blume, C.L. <i>Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium./ Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium </i> (Brussels, 1828). Est. € 7.000-9.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> <i>Description de l'Égypte (…) pendant l'expédition de l'armée francaise</i> (Paris, 1820-1829). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Fontaine, J. de. <i>Fables choisies, mises en vers </i> (Paris, 1756).<br>Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> [VOC and WIC]. Pelsaert, F. <i>Ongeluckige Voyagie, Van 't Schip Batavia, Nae de Oost-Indien</i> (Amsterdam, 1647).<br>Est. € 40.000-60.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions June 2:</b> Goya y Lucientes, F.J. de. <i>La Taureaumachie </i> (Paris, 1876), 40 etchings and aquatints. Est. € 8.000-10.000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2013 Issue

Book Prices Declined in 2012... Maybe

Washconst

George Washington's copy of the Constitution was the top priced book auctioned in 2012 - $9,826,500.

All else being equal...

This month we look back at 2012 at auction for our annual state of the book trade review. This is not because most books are bought and sold at auction. They are not. Most sell through dealer shops, online at listing sites or eBay, or through other private transactions. However, those transactions are hidden from the public eye. Only auction sales take place under the glare of the open market, so they provide our best look at what is taking place in the trade.

This past year's numbers indicate a decline in price, which seems consistent with unscientific, anecdotal comments from dealers. Still, this brings us back to that first line - all else being equal. All else was not equal in the auction rooms this past year. More books are appearing at auction. Whether this represents a shift in how books are sold, or reflects a greater quantity of books coming to market, is unclear. What it does say is that changes are taking place in the book market. A flood of books to a particular venue could push prices down while not necessarily being reflective of the overall market. Most likely it reflects some softening in price, but we cannot be as confident of this assessment as we would be if sales volume was similar while prices went down.

For example, one notable difference was the emergence of Heritage Auctions as a high volume seller. We've not seen anything quite like it before. Their share of books sold at auction rose from 1.7% a year earlier to 12.5% last year. Their median, as might be expected with such a high volume, was lower than average, skewing the numbers down.

This past year, we were able to track 310,489 items in the books/paper/ephemera field offered at auction, with 221,248 lots sold. The sell through rate was 71%. The previous year (2011), the number of lots offered was 244,840, with 166,903 sold, a sell-through rate of 68%. That's a 27% increase in lots offered, and despite the “flooding” of items, the sales rate actually increased by 3%. For starters, we can conclude there is a robust market for books, even if prices may have come down somewhat.

Next, we look at the median price for books at auction, the price at which half of the items (which sold) sold for more, and half for less. For 2012, that number was $351.That is down from $378 the prior year. That is a drop of 7%, a not insignificant amount. Still, it is hard to determine whether the higher number of books being offered explains more of the drop than does a deteriorating market.

So... next we looked at the percentage of items which sold for more than their high estimate vs. the number which sold for less than their low estimate. This one was surprising. Last year, 51% of the lots which sold, sold for more than the high estimate, vs. 28% for less than the low estimate. The prior year, that ratio was 46%-30%. In other words, even though the median price was down, more books last year were selling for more than was expected than was the case the previous year. Unless auction houses were greatly reducing their estimates, which seems unlikely, books and related material were outselling expectations, and achieving a greater sell-through rate. This is not what we would expect from a depressed market. The result is that while we experienced a 7% decline in the median price of books at auction last year, it appears that this decline can at least in part be attributed to many more books being put up for sale at auction this past year, rather than declining interest.

What does this mean for the traditional bookseller? We have only anecdotal evidence of their sales, but it will surprise no one in the trade that we don't hear a great many dealers saying they had a bang-up year. Bookselling can be challenging these days. Traditional strategies, from issuing paper catalogues, to operating bricks and mortar showrooms, to attending book fairs, may not work as well as they once did. Nevertheless, it should be of comfort for those in the trade to realize that books are selling, and at a slightly higher rate at auction than a year ago. The market is still there. The challenge is finding it.

The volume leader this past year was Heritage Auctions, selling 27,662 lots. They now conduct some of their sales online. Runner-up was last year's leader, Kiefer Buch und Kunstauktionen of Germany, with 13,034. Despite slipping to second, their unit sales nonetheless rose 15%. Bloomsbury was the only other house to reach five digits, with 11,375 (note – major houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's are tracked by individual location, rather than combining all sales).

The highest median price went to Christie's King Street location in London, at $13,000. Also in five digits were Sotheby's in New York at $10,625 and Christie's in New York at $10,000. However, the highest average sale went to Sotheby's in London at $47,135. A higher average relative to the median indicates some very expensive items were among their mix. For those scared off by such numbers, the median at 16 auction houses was between $100 and $200. There are auction houses that feature many lots in double digits, affordable for those who don't frequent the halls of Christie's and Sotheby's.

Fall, followed by spring, remain the most active times of the year, with November again being the busiest month. However the greatest increases on a percentage basis came in some of the traditionally off-months, including July and January. With more material coming to auction, some houses have been holding sales in traditionally slow months, evidently attempting to avoid being lost in the rush of the busiest months.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> The 1936 Nobel Prize Medal for Physics, Presented to Victor Franz Hess for His Discovery of Cosmic Radiation. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Sangorski & Sutcliffe: Jewelled Binding. Byron, Lord [George Gordon]. An illuminated manuscript on vellum, being Byron's <i>Ode to Napoleon.</i> $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Ruscha, Ed. Complete Set of 16 Artist's Books by Ed Ruscha. Various Places: Various Publishers, 1968-1973. All first printings, seven signed or with early inscriptions. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> McKenney, Thomas L. and James Hall. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America.</i> Fine and unsophisticated subscriber's copy in early state. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Williams, Thomas Lanier ("Tennessee Williams"). Producer Charles K. Feldman's file on the production of <i>The Glass Menagerie</i>(Warner Bros., 1950). $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Lee, Harper. Archive of correspondence including 35 autograph letters signed (mostly "Harper", but a few "H", "H.L." or "Nelle Harper"). $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Tocqueville, Alexis de. <i>De la Démocratie en Amérique.</i> First editions of both parts of Tocqueville's classic <i>Democracy In America</i>. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Complete set of all periodical publications of The Royal Geographical Society 1831-1948, comprising 203 volumes with thousands of plates and maps, many folding. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Alchemy. Loewens and Richard. <i>Universal Medicin ex regulo stellato.</i> Original alchemical manuscript written in German and Latin, ink on paper. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Bray, Anna Eliza. <i>Life of Thomas Stothard, R.A. with Personal Reminiscences.</i> Remarkable 10-volume collection of Stothard's work, expansively extra-illustrated. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Algren, Nelson. Producer Charles Feldman's extensive production archive of <i>Walk on the Wild Side</i> (Columbia 1962). $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Elliot, Daniel Giraud. <i>The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America.</i> First edition, one of only 200 copies printed. $10,000 to $15,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant

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