A hallmark of the transitional market that books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera are in today is the steady and substantial flow of quality material - the dispositions of institutions, dealers and collectors coming into the rooms. There is a certain frenzy to it and for buyers the luxury of choices. The Bonhams sale in Los Angeles and New York of Fine Books & Manuscripts including Historical Photographs on October 16th is a good example. This is one of their quarterly general sales and evidence of the rising quality of material coming into the rooms these days.
These general sales share the common characteristic of “collectability” while providing a tent under which Lincoln, Martin Luther King, William Faulkner, Mahatma Gandhi, Jack London, and Nina Ricci find themselves in friendly competition for bidder affection. In this they are not alone. One can find photographs, scripts, books, artwork and etchings, correspondence, fore-edge painting and ephemera – most from diverse sources and on diverse subjects. The sale, 379 lots, demands a careful look.
Christina Geiger, Director of Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams in New York describes the sale this way: “the October sale includes both traditional and eclectic material, and represents the broad interests of the book collecting community.”
To this Dr. Catherine Williamson in Los Angeles added, “this sale includes several small collections consigned by private buyers who have waited out the uncertainty of the past few years, and have now decided to bring their material to market, having seen that the book market is vibrant and healthy.”
The sale opens with a strong selection of atlas and sheet maps, including works by Blaeu, de Jode, Hondius, Faden and Mitchell. More unusually there is a beautiful Japanese hand-colored woodcut map of the world, adapted from de Ricci by Nagakubo Sekisui (lot 2010) and a fine copy of the first printed English map of the Far East: John Wolfe's Trew Description of all the Coasts of China after Linschoten (lot 2013).
The Travel & Natural History grouping includes voyaging narratives and color-plate books. One of the rarest titles is William Betagh's alternative narrative of Shelvocke's buccaneering expedition of 1719 in which Captain Betagh bitterly condemns his commander (lot 2022).
Next is the Science & Mathematics section which includes a fine copy of Claude Shannon's pamphlet, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, the foundational paper of information theory (lot 2054) directly preceded by the first edition in English of Newton's Principia (lot 2053).
Bonhams is offering about three dozen important signed photographs from the estate of noted collector, Jerome Shochet, including those of Pasteur (lot 2126), Turgenev (lot 2136), Brahms (lot 2065), and Wilbur Wright (lot 2139). Those interested in Wright will also note a copy of his Experiments and Observations in Soaring Flight, 1903, the first published report of experiments with motorized gliders (lot 2058).
There is a very good Fine Press & Art section as well. Many highpoints of American fine press are represented, including the Grabhorn Press Leaves of Grass (lot 2218), the Arion Press Moby Dick (lot 2187) and the Rockwell Kent Moby Dick (lot 2225), a.k.a. "the whale in the pail." Livres d'artiste are also present including works illustrated by Robert Motherwell, Wayne Thiebaud, Pablo Picasso and Ed Ruscha.
The Literature and Modern Literature sections include Samuel Clemens' raucous letter to his family announcing his engagement to Olivia Langdon (lot 2271). Modern highlights include literary screenplays from the collection of Richard Manney, including rare copies of William Faulkner's screenwriting work such as Daryl Zanuck's copy of The Last Slaver (lot 2299) and Faulkner's original story treatment of Battle Cry (lot 2304). There is also a working shooting script of The Grapes of Wrath signed by John Ford, Henry Fonda and several other cast members (lot 2336).
The final section in the Bonhams sale is the Nancy Walls Collection of Jack London. It includes everything from a paddle acquired by London in the Solomon Islands (lot 2346) to a first edition in jacket of The Call of the Wild (lot 2349) and a love letter to Charmian written just four days before their wedding (lot 2341).
The material is on preview in New York Friday, Saturday and Sunday [October 4th to 6th] and in Los Angeles from Friday 11th through to Tuesday the 15th.
The sale on the 16th, in two sessions, begins at 10:00 am PST. Bidding in person, by phone, absentee and online are available.
Images included with this article:
Lot 2009. Japanese Map
Lot 2015. Mitchell, Samual Augustus
Lot 2024. Bounty - Pitcairn Island
Lot 2036. Layard, Austen Henry
Lot 2049. Einstein, Albert
Lot 2060. Images of th American WestLot 2066. Bush, George Walker
Lot 2071. George Armstrong CusterLot 2075. Edison, Ford and Firestone
Lot 2115. Lincoln, Abraham
Here is a link to the full sale
Adam Stackhouse, Senior Specialist
Dr. Catherine Williamson, Director