Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2014 Issue

Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana from Sotheby's

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A few items from Sotheby's sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana

Sotheby's Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana, comes to auction early this month on June 3rd. Living up to their reputation, Sotheby's has compiled a sale of superb work with a significant emphasis on autographed material. The items generally break down into categories of mainly signatures and imprints, with a sprinkling of books and maps, from America during the 18th through 20th century, material published by the Black Sun Press, autograph letters and works by significant people of the 19th and 20th centuries, with many authors, and finally printed works and autograph letters by 19th and 20th century artists. Let's take a look at some of the highlight lots in case you missed the catalogue or didn't have time to browse it.


Many Presidential and other famous American politicians’ autograph lots are available in the first third of the sale. Virtually every high profile name that held the highest political office in the country before World War II makes an appearance here, so if signed documents by Presidents are your fancy, this part of the sale is for you. In fact, other than Monroe, every renowned President has his autograph present (the ones omitted are Monroe, J.Q. Adams, William Harrison, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Garfield). With a lot of money, and I do mean a lot, one could conceivably begin a collection from scratch from this sale. If this were the case, I’d recommend looking at lot 46, a cache of 56 documents signed by George Washington while he was President and Director of the Potomac Company. Sure, he wasn’t President of the United States yet, but as one of, if not the most desired signature of American Presidents, 56 instances is a huge number. The lot is estimated for $250,000-350,000, so if you bought it for the low estimate, the average cost of one signature would be around $4,500, lower than many other individual signatures from Washington and other Presidents.


As mentioned previously, material from the Black Sun Press is prominently featured in the sale. If you’re not familiar, Black Sun was an English language press founded in Paris by American expatriates Harry and Caresse Crosby. It was initially started to publish the Crosbys’ own work, but after printing a limited edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and receiving a positive response, they expanded to include other authors. Black Sun Press is known today for having published the early works of many writers such as D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce before they became better known. Their reputation also stems from having only printed limited editions of handmade books printed on high quality paper. Included in this sale are twenty-five lots published by Black Sun (lots 51-75). Works by both Crosbys as well as Lawrence and Joyce are available among others.


Further on down the line, a more generalized collection of books, autograph letters and other material is for sale. Twenty-four autograph letters and fourteen inscribed editions of Albert Camus that belonged to his American lover Patricia Blake are listed under lot 80, estimated $100,000-200,000, as is James Chadwick’s 1935 Nobel Prize Medal for physics and a collection of related material (lot 81, est. $200,000-400,000). Autograph letters and typed letters signed from famous authors such as Samuel Clemens (lot 83, est. $8,000-12,000), Charles Dickens (lot 89, est. $2,000-3,000), Arthur Conan Doyle (lot 94, est. $2,000-3,000), F. Scott Fitzgerald (lot 101, est. $3,000-5,000), Ernest Hemingway (lots 108 and 109), James Joyce (lot 114, est. $10,000-15,000) and Oscar Wilde (lot 153, $2,000-3,000) are all here. Some of the high profile books being sold are a first edition of 1,000 copies printed of Joyce’s Ulysses (lot 115, est. $30,000-50,000), a first edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (lot 143, est. $10,000-15,000), and a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life Among the Lowly (lot 144, est. $6,000-8,000).

The sale concludes with material from artists, with drawings, sketches and paintings interspersed with autograph letters, manuscripts and art books. While the amount of lots is small, just twenty-one, the dollar amount estimated for some of the items is hefty. Francis Bacon’s “Tryptich with bull against screen” original drawing and autograph manuscript at lot 160 is estimated $200,000-300,000, and the 161st of 250 copies of Marc Chagall’s Le Cirque at lot 163 for $150,000-200,000. Lots 171-174 offer material by Joan Miro, and the sale’s final lot (177) is an autographed and inscribed copy of Andy Warhol’s The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (from A to B & Back Again) estimated $1,500-2,500.


All in all the material offered in June’s Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana is just what the sale name says. With a variety of material on many subjects on offer, there are excellent opportunities for additions to collections around the world.


Bidding in person, on the phone, and online begins at 10am EDT on June 3rd, 2014. The catalogue is available online here on Sotheby’s website. If you would like to bid online, please register here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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>

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