• <b>Christie’s Online, Dec. 5 – Dec. 12:</b> <i>John the Baptist</i>. initial 'H' cut from a choirbook [Lombardy or Siena, c. 1470s]. US$6,000–9,000
    <b>Christie’s Online, Dec. 5 – Dec. 12:</b> <i>Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) seated on a terrace with Sikh noblemen</i>. [Punjab, North India, circa 1830-40]. Estimate: US$10,000–15,000
  • <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>
  • <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

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

Tracking the Most Expensive Book – A Copy of Audubon's Birds of America is Sold

7c040d36-7b08-423f-b3f1-b80313361888

A copy of the most expensive, reasonably obtainable printed book was sold at auction at the beginning of April. The double-elephant folio first edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America was hammered down at Sotheby's in New York on April 1. For years, Audubon's Birds held the record for the highest price ever reached at auction. It was pushed down a notch last fall when a copy of the Bay Psalm Book surpassed its record, but the Bay Psalm is not really obtainable. It had been 66 years since the previous copy was offered at auction, and it's unlikely that any of us will live long enough to see another one come around. A Gutenberg Bible would obtain many, many times as much as a Bay Psalm if it ever reached market, but none of those have been seen since early in the last century. An Audubon first is still obtainable, a copy coming to market every few years.

 

This can be explained by the relative commonness of a first edition Birds of America. There are believed to be at least 120 copies of it still in existence. Only 11 copies of the Bay Psalm Book are known to have survived. Many more copies of the Bay Psalm Book were said to have been printed, but it was not a spectacular production and would have been used until worn ragged. Audubon's Birds was a spectacularly beautiful book. Most copies were lovingly cared for and handed down through the generations.

 

This copy did not achieve anything like the $11.4 million record reached by the Lord Hesketh copy in 2010. It wasn't expected to be close. The Lord Hesketh copy was in pristine condition. This one was not. It wasn't in bad shape; it just wasn't particularly good either. Instead, it sold for $3,525,000. That was above the $3 million estimate of its previous owner, the Indiana Historical Society, and within the $3-$5 million estimate range given by Sotheby's.

 

The Indiana Historical Society purchased its copy in 1933, for a very reasonable price of $4,000. That was during the height of the Depression, so bargains were undoubtedly available, especially since $4,000 would have been a meaningful amount of money in those days. Nonetheless, a gain of 88,000% is more than good, even for 80 years. Whoever made that purchase on behalf of the Indiana Historical Society is owed a big “thank you.”

 

The shortcoming in terms of value with this copy is that it had been purchased by the Indiana Historical Society from a library. Library copies are often actually used, as opposed to being gently placed on a bookshelf. There was some soiling and other evidences of use. Linen backing to the plates did not help. Still, $3.5 million is serious cash. We do not know this for certain, but would not be surprised if this is the highest price ever paid for an ex-library book.

 

This was the fifth copy of this book to come up for sale at auction this century. The most recent previous copy sold in 2012 for $7,922,500. Before that, the then record setting Hesketh copy went in 2010. Another copy sold in 2005 for $5,616,000, and one sold in 2000 for $8,802,500. The 2000 sale also set a record for the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction at that time, not surpassed until the Hesketh copy a decade later. At least four copies of the book sold in the 20th century for over $1 million.

 

Along with Audubon's most famous work, one other book was sold at Sotheby's auction. It was a copy of Audubon's other great color plate book – a first edition of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. It sold for $245,000. The Indiana Historical Society purchased this book in 1951 for $900.

 

The Probability of Reappearance tool that comes with the AE Database estimates that another copy of the first edition of Birds of America will likely come around for auction again in roughly another 3 years. If you are interested in getting the next one, we suggest you start saving your pennies today.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Rowling (J.K.). Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, original fine black pen and ink manuscript book by the author J.K.Rowling, with 31pp of text and illustrations. £80,000 to £120,000
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Blaeu (Johannes). <i>Vierde Stuck der Aerdrycks-Beschryving, welck vervat Engelandt</i>, i.e. <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum</i>. vol 4, England & Wales. £10,500 to £12,500
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Miró (Joan). L'Homme au Balencier, etching, aquatint and carborundum, printed in colours on Japan paper, signed in pencil lower right. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Steve McCurry (b.1950). Afghan Girl, 1984, pigment inkjet print, signed and numbered 48/250 in pencil on lower margin. £2,500 to £3,500
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Keough (Pat and Rosemarie). <i>Antarctica</i>, no 228 of 950 copies, signed by the authors, many colour illustrations, original dark grey morocco. £2,800 to £3,200
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Rowlandson (Thomas). Darby & Joan, the idyllically contended couple sit either side of a stove in a cosy domestic interior, ink and watercolour on wove paper. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Procktor (Patrick). Tiny blue-eyed goldfish, watercolour, 310 x 460mm., signed in blue crayon, lower right, titled and inscribed Muscat Jan 19. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Iouri Abramochkin (b.1936). Horsemen, Dagestan, 1968, Lambda print, printed later, signed, dated, editioned 1/8 and annotated in black ink verso. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Ravilious (Eric).- Shakespeare (William). Twelfth NIght, or, What You Will, number 79 of 275 copies , wood-engraved title. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Michelangelo.- Chastel (André). <i>The Vatican Frescoes of Michelangelo</i>, Photography by Takashi Okamura, 2 vol., one of 600 sets, colour plates. £500 to £700
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Wyndham (John). <i>The Day of the Triffids; The Kraken Wakes; The Chrysalids;</i> together with 8 other volumes. All first editions. £400 to £600
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). Goats Along The Seine, 1894. Photogravure, printed 1990s by Dorothy Norman, one from an edition of 40 published by Aperture. £400 to £600
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Friend, Wife</i>, graphite & watercolor cover for Judge magazine, May 1920. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Georges Lepape, <i>Après la Tempête</i>, watercolor, ink & graphite cover for <i>Vogue</i>, April 1919, inscribed to Madame Condé Nast. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Maurice Sendak, <i>Little Bear & His Parents </i>, pencil study & finished watercolor for <i>Bears of the World</i>, 1981. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b><br>Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), <i>A Great Gallumphing Galoot!</i>, original drawing & inscription, signed twice, in <i>Dr. Seuss's ABC</i>. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Scrapbook relating to the production of <i>Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs</i>, with 20 original drawings, circa 1937. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Charles M. Schulz, <i>Gentleman Biographer</i>, pen & ink, <i>Peanuts</i> comic strip, 1972. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Jerry Pinkney, <i>[Brer Rabbit & Brer Bear]</i>, watercolor, pen & ink on paper, 1990. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> <i>Daffydils</i>, festschrift for Harry Hershfield, signed with cartoons & caricatures by George Herriman, Winsor McCay & others, 1911. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> W.W. Denslow, <i>Higglepy, Piggleby, My Black Hen</i>, ink & gouache, for <i>Denslow's Mother Goose </i>, 1901. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Pavel Tchelitchew, <i>Savonarola</i>, graphite & gouache, sketch for the production at Theater in der Königgrätzer Straße, 1923. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> John Philip Falter, <i>Strictly Off the Record</i>, oil on canvas, for Four Roses Whiskey, 1942. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Movie Scream</i>, pen, ink & watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker</i>, January 1947. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <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 €

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions