Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2014 Issue

Fireworks in Americana in New York and Los Angeles

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I had occasion to preview Americana sales at Doyle and Swann this past week and in the days leading up to these sales it seemed like both would simply fit into the New York continuum of high level sophisticated activities so these New York sales would, at most, be commas, in the city’s cultural extravaganza.  Okay, let’s check that thought.  Auctions usually see 75% of their lots sell.  Swann consistently sells more lots and other houses less.  Doyle New York, the scrappy newcomer, looking to confirm their rising status in the auction field, employed even lower estimates to drive their percentage of lots sold even higher.  On the 24th, for Doyle, and 25th for Swann, we got to see how these strategies are working out.  In two words the answer is very well.

 

At Doyle there were three sales over two days, the 24th and 25th, but I’ll focus on their 324-lot dispersal of material from the New York Bar Association on the 24th.  It was breathtaking as every item sold, together bringing $2,367,267 or 235% of the total of the high estimates.  Buckram has never been so valuable.  I say this because many of the important rarities in the sale were rebound in durable library bindings as if the contents were not highly rare and important.  But, they were and certainly will be restored.

 

The following day at Swann the Printed & Manuscript Americana sale brought $1,109,257 against the aggregate high estimate of $837,330; 132% of the high estimate.  Three hundred and eighty-four lots were offered and 335 sold for an 87% success rate.  I bought 4 lots there myself.

 

Elsewhere on the 24th, at Bonhams in the ‘There’s no Place Like Hollywood” sale AE member Dr. Gary Milan let his Play it Again Sam upright piano from the movie Casablanca go for $3,413,000.  He acquired, from more than twenty sources, it and other related items more than thirty years ago.  For bidders with not quite so much money Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion costume from the Wizard of Oz [1939] sold for $3,077,000 in the same sale.  Gary, at 76, continues to collect.  “I can’t control it.”  It’s a feeling many of the greatest collectors share. 

 

So what can we make of this?  First, there are plenty of people with both taste and resources to buy the exceptional, rare and unique.  Their motivations vary widely.  Certainly some of the lawyers who dominated the buying at the Doyle sale were buying souvenirs in support of the New York Bar Association.  At Swann’s the material was solid, much of it obscure.  And at Bonhams?  Well, when wealth and emotion find themselves in the same place watch out.  The entire sale of 376 lots had a total high estimate of $2,112,600 and brought $9,177,841.

 

During the week of the 24th bidders were really feeling it.

 

Here are links to the results of all three sales:

 

Doyle New York:  The New York Bar Association

http://www.americanaexchange.com/auctions/auction_detail?id=7866

 

Swann Galleries:  Printed & Manuscript Americana

http://www.americanaexchange.com/auctions/auction_detail_report?id=7751

 

Bonhams:  There’s no place like Hollywood

http://www.americanaexchange.com/auctions/auction_detail?id=8267

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>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.

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