• <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Maurice Neville Collection of Modern Literature (Part III). April 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Clemens, Samuel L. <i>The Writings Of Mark Twain.</i> New York And London: Harper & Brothers, 1904to1906. $80,000 to 120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Biggers, Earl Derr. <i>The House Without a Key</i>. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1925. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Bukowski, Charles. Extensively revised typescript of his novel <i>Factotum</i>. [Los Angeles, c. 1973 to 75]. $50,000 to 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Maurice Neville Collection of Modern Literature (Part III). April 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Dickens, Charles. Autograph quotation from <i>A Christmas Carol</i> signed ("Charles Dickens" With Paraph). $25,000 to 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Fitzgerald, Zelda. A group of paper dolls with costumes, circa 1927. $25,000 to 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. <i>Men Without Women</i>. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928. $25,000 to 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Maurice Neville Collection of Modern Literature (Part III). April 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Lawrence, T. E. Autograph letter signed ("TE Shaw") completing the order for George VII — The Brough Superior motorcycle on which he was killed. $5,000 to 7,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Steadman, Ralph. "Somewhere Around Barstow". $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Jones, Robert Tyre ("Bobby"), and O. B. Keeler. <i>Down The Fairway: The Golf Life And Play Of Robert T. Jones, Jr.</i> New York: Minton, Balch, 1927. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY Apr. 24:</b> Ruth, George Herman ("Babe"). <i>Babe Ruth's Own Book Of Baseball</i>. New York & London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1928. $8,000 to 12,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Ernest Hemingway, Autograph Letter Signed "Love / Mr. Papa," to Marlene Dietrich, Cuba, 1952. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Alexis de Tocqueville, Autograph Letter Signed, on the publication of <i> Democracy in America </i>, 1837. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Hart Benton, Autograph Manuscript, draft of <i>The Mechanics of Form Organization in Painting</i>, with sketches, 1926. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliot Erwitt, photograph of Kennedy & Eisenhower, signed by both,<br>c. 1960. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> John Adams, Partly-printed Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, 1798. $4,000 to $6,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Graphite drawing of Albert Einstein, signed by him & the artist, S.N. Swamy, 1950. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, London, 1888. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Partly-printed vellum Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State James Madison, 1809. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Agatha Christie, Autograph Manuscript notebook with early drafts for numerous novels, Baghdad, circa 1948. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Claude Monet, Autograph Letter Signed to Desmond Fitzgerald, in French, 1889. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Photograph of Fidel Castro, Signed & Inscribed, in Spanish, 1955. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Frederick Stuart Church, archive of 17 illustrated Autograph Letters Signed to Evander Schley, 1905-11. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 37. Anonymous, <i>[Untitled - Ancient World]</i>, 1553. Est. $20,000 - $23,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 45. Cellarius, <i>Haemisphaerium Stellatum Australe</i>, 1708. Est. $2,400 - $3,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 51. Kircher, <i>Systema Ideale quo Exprimitur</i>, 1665. Est. $1,600 - $1,900
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 152. David H. Vance, <i>Map of the United States of North America</i>, 1825. Est. $8,000 - $10,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 309. Mark Storm, <i>Official Texas Brags Map of North America</i>, 1948. Est. $350 - $425
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 426. B. Crété, <i>Carte Symbolique de l'Europe / Europe en 1914</i>, 1915. Est. $2,000 - $2,300
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 636. Hartmann Schedel, <i>Folio LXIIII - Destruccio Iherosolime</i>, 1493. Est. $1,100 - $1,400
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 649. Heinrich Bunting, <i>Asia Secunda pars Terrae in Forma Pegasi</i>, 1581. Est. $3,000 - $3,750
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 747. Theodore de Bry, <i> [Lot of 22 - Complete Set of De Bry's Virginia Natives]</i>, 1590. Est. $6,000 - $7,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 769. Lotter/Lobeck, <i>Atlas Geographicus Portatilis</i>, 1760. Est. $1,900 - $2,200
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 772. Henry Teesdale, <i>A New General Atlas of the World</i>, 1835. Est. $1,200 - $1,500
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 777. Marco Coltellini, <i>[3 Volumes] Il Gazzettiere Americano</i>, 1763. Est. $5,500 - $7,000

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>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>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
  • <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b>  Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, The Moon, From a Negative taken at the Observatory of Mr. L. M. Rutherfurd...May 19, 1874. Est: $5,000-8,000 (Lot 3)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Alvin Langdon Coburn. London. With 20 photogravures by Coburn and text by Hilaire Belloc, London and New York: 1909. First edition. Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 32)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Lee Friedlander, Newark, New Jersey, 1962 and Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1972.<br>Est: $7,000-9,000 (Lot 50)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> The  papers of Brevet Major General John Gross Barnard (1815-1882), Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac. Est: $75,000-100,000 (Lot 160)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> James Joyce, Dubliners, London: Grant Richards, 1914. First edition. Est: $5,000-8,000 (Lot 362)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> George Sand, Group of five volumes inscribed to Henry Harrisse. Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 405)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Thomas More, Sir, Saint [Utopia]: De optimo reip. statu deque nova insula utopia libellus vere aureus… Basel: Froben, March 1518. First Basel edition. Est: $15,000-25,000 (Lot 308)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Johannes Brahms, Autograph letter in German signed "Joh. Brahms.” Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 285)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Kelmscott Press, [Guilelmus, of Tyre, Archbishop]. The History of Godefrey of Boloyne. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1893. Est: $2,000-3,000 (Lot 270)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Gilles Robert de Vaugondy, Gilles Didier, Atlas universel...Paris: the author and Boudet, 1757[-58]. Est: $10,000 - $15,000  (Lot 222)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820. First edition. Est: $5,000-7,000 (Lot 399)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Specimen book of Schumacher & Ettlinge, between 1870-1895. Original roan-backed boards.. Est: $2,000-3,000 (Lot 195)
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions