• <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>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio!</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio!</b>
  • <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SAINT-EXUPERY, ANTOINE DE. Kodachrome Film (16mm) showing Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Consuelo on a boat, 1942. JOINED: Guestbook for the Boat, signed, with a drawing of the Little Prince. 15 000 to 20 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> CANDEE, HELEN CHURCHILL. Autograph manuscript. TITANIC, 40 leaves. Original account of the most famous shipwreck, by a survivor of the ordeal. 300 000 to 400 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> TITANIC. Collection of 7 documents relating to the shipwreck of the Titanic (14 April 1912). 20 000 to<br>30 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> DUPLEIX DE CADIGNAN, JEANBAPTISTE. Signed autograph manuscript. Thirty years of memoirs related to military services and important information on the American War of Independence.<br>40 000 to 50 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> CURTIUS. Faiz et Conquestes d'Alexandre [Histoire d'Alexandre le Grand]. In French, illuminated manuscript on paper and parchment, 16 large miniatures. 300 000 to<br>500 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> NELSON, HORATIO. Signed autograph letter, ‘Nelson & Bronte,” aboard the Amazon, 14 October 1801, addressed to Sir William Hamilton. 4 000 to 5 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> GIROLAMO FRANCESCO MARIA MAZZUOLI DIT LE PARMESAN. Le couple amoureux. Pen and brown ink. 80 000 to 120 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SADE, DONATIEN-ALPHONSE-FRANÇOIS, MARQUIS DE. Autograph manuscript. The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinage, 1785.<br>4 000 000 to 6 000 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> MIRÓ, JOAN. Signed autograph correspondence to Thomas and Diane Bouchard (1949-1976). 50 000 to 60 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> BALZAC, HONORÉ DE. Signed autograph manuscript, Ursule Mirouët, [1841]. One of only two manuscripts of novels by Balzac in private hands. 800 000 to<br>1 200 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> LENOIR, ALEXANDRE. Essai sur l'histoire des arts en Egypte pouvant servir d'appendice au grand ouvrage de la Commission. autograph manuscript with numerous additions and corrections. 40 000 to 50 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SCHRÖDINGER, ERWIN. Autograph manuscript [Spring 1946, sent to Albert Einstein]. 1 500 to 2 000 €
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> William Oden Waller studio, <i>Manhattan Mary</i>, gouache and graphite, 1927. Sold for $77,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Missionary archive of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, Minnesota, 1833-93. Sold for $112,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b> Richard Hakluyt, <i>Novus Orbis</i>, first printed use of “Virginia” on a map, Paris, 1587. Sold for $80,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17:</b> Aegidius Romanus, <i>Lo libre del regiment dels princeps</i>, first edition in Catalan, Barcelona, 1480. Sold for $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> William Faulkner, <i>The Marble Faun</i>, first edition, signed & inscribed, Boston, 1924. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5:</b> Henry Ossawa Tanner, <i>Flight into Egypt</i>, oil on canvas, circa 1910. Sold for $341,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Lonely House</i>, etching, 1923. Sold for $317,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7:</b> George Washington, Autograph Letter Signed, to his spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge, New Jersey, 1780. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:</b> Saul Leiter, <i>Waiter, Paris</i>, chromogenic print, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: </b> A. M. Cassandre, <i>Normandie / Maiden Voyage</i>, 1935. Sold for $20,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2013 Issue

A Handwritten Letter Sells for a Record $6 Million-Plus

Fcrickletter

Francis Crick's “Secret of Life” letter to his son.

On April 10, the highest price ever paid for a letter at auction was achieved at Christie's in New York. If there was any doubt about the growing interest in more ephemeral sorts of works on paper, this should help put it to rest. At over $6 million, or 3 to 6 times the estimate range, there was no shortage of serious interest.

The letter itself is something of a surprise. It was not from one of the great world leaders, a Lincoln, Churchill, or Napoleon. It was not from the most famous of scientists, a Galileo, Kepler, or Newton. It was not even very old, written just sixty years ago. The writer only died in the last decade, his partner and the recipient are still living (and attended the auction). While his name is well-recognized in the scientific community, if you interviewed people on the street and asked who Francis Crick is, most would probably respond with blank stares. What we now know about him is that, along with being a great scientist, he wrote a letter worth $6 million. Obviously, he is more important than the typical man on the street realizes.

For those who have forgotten, Francis Crick, along with his partner, James Watson, discovered the nature of the DNA molecule. To put it more bluntly, they discovered how physical characteristics, and life itself, is transmitted from one individual to another. They were first to understand how the DNA molecule could copy itself, and thereby transmit life to another. Crick and Watson had been working on models of the DNA molecule, trying to break the code. On the last day of February, 1953, they had their voilà moment. They suddenly realized how everything must fit together within the molecule for it all to work.

Crick was not shy in recognizing its importance. He announced to others, only “half-jokingly” as Watson would later write, that they had found “the secret of life.” The two spent March busily constructing models to get it down right, and began to prepare a paper they would submit to Nature magazine on April 2 announcing their discovery. It was during this period that Crick would write his $6 million letter. It was not directed to a fellow scientist or researcher. Instead, it was sent to a 12-year-old boy. That boy was Michael Crick, Francis's son, off at boarding school. Crick regularly explained such things to his son, who was interested in secret codes, so this clearly would have fascinated him. In his letter, Crick explains as clearly as possible what has been discovered. This is the first known written explanation of the discovery, and probably the only first account of such a major scientific discovery to conclude with the line, “Lots of love, Daddy.”

Francis Crick begins his letter modestly with, “Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of des-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. You may remember that the genes of the chromosomes - which carry the hereditary factors - are made up of protein and D.N.A. Our structure is very beautiful.” He goes on to say, “...we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life.” He also explains in more detail how its reproduction works, and even provides a crude drawing of their double helix model. Crick promises to show the model to his 12-year-old son when he comes home.

The importance of the discovery and the significance of this letter was well understood by Christie's. Its existence has long been known, it carrying the sobriquet of the “Secret of Life” letter. They slapped an estimate of $1 - $2 million on it. Not even they were prepared for what happened. By the time the bidding stopped, the price had crossed the $6 million mark (including commissions). The final price was $6,059,750. The letter was purchased by an unnamed buyer who placed a bid by telephone.

The auction included only two other items, both relating to Crick, and both easily surpassing estimates. An early 1950s four-page manuscript notebook, estimated at $4,000-$6,000, sold for $21,250. A pencil drawing of Crick by his wife, Odile, estimated at $8,000 - $12,000, went for $17,500. Odile Crick was an artist, though she is best known for her drawing of the double helix used by her husband and Watson.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 95. Turing. <i>Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals</i>. Offprint. London, 1939. Robin Gandy's Copy. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 98. Zernike, Fritz. The 1953 Nobel Prize for Physics: The Invention of the Phase-Contrast Microscope. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 111. Apple 1 Computer, operational, with exceptional provenance. $400,000 to $600,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1074. Bruce, Lenny. An unreleased 16 mm film by "Count" Lewis DePasquale featuring Lenny Bruce. $7,000 to $10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1254. Hirohito. Manuscript in Japanese, "The Emperor's Monologue," transcribed by Terasaki Hidenari. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1095. Goldman. Emma. Large archive of correspondence, much of it to Warren Starr Van Valkenburgh. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 109. Wozniak and Jobs. The First Digital "Blue Box", Berkeley, 1972. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 46. Newton, Isaac. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. 1st issue. London, 1687. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 49. Newton. Autograph Manuscript in English, a portion of a draft of Newton's study on revelation. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1027. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1st edition, 1st issue. Scribners, 1925. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1042. Hemingway., Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Presentation copy, one of 15 copies. Scribners, 1940. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1215. A 48-star American Flag, flown from LCT-703, sunk on Omaha Beach, December 1944. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Unique Association Copy of Signed Limited Roosevelt, African Game Trails, Extra-Illustrated. $5,000 - 7,500
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 24 Volumes Henry James in 1/2 Morocco - Alvin Langdon Coburn Frontis Illustrations. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> French Surrealism by Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, 1930 Limited Edition in Lovely Condition. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Unique and Beautifully Written Manuscript of 650 Quarto Pages - Unpublished History of Belle-Isle-En-Mer, 1754. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> William Beebe's Classic 4 Volume Work on "The Pheasants," Signed and Inscribed in 1919. $2,000 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Three Volumes of Washington's War Era Letters Published in New York in 1796. $1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 19th C. Vintage Album with 48 Sepia Toned Albumen Prints by Fratelli Alinari et. al.<br>$1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Report of Phipps' Voyage in 1773 In Search of a Passage to India Via the North Pole. $1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 17 Volumes of Wallace's American Trotting Register, 1874-1891. $1,500 - $2,500
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Rare First English Edition of Monardes, Joyfull Newes, 1577, Woodcut Illustrations.<br>$1,500 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 6 Volume Shakespeare Presented to Virginia Congressman Involved in the "Trent Affair". $1,200 - $1,500
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Classic Lothar Meggendorfer Movable Book Complete with 8 Chromolithograph Plates, Ca. 1890. $750 - $1,000

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