Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2014 Issue

Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana from Sotheby's

453a9af0-697a-491d-9480-17098f8ebfdc

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 Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <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: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions