Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2015 Issue

The AE Top 500 Prices Paid at Auction in 2014

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It was the year of Tintin. Thirty-four drawings.

Once again a year has come to an end, meaning it is time to look back at the top 500 prices paid at auction in 2014 in the field of books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera (see end of article for a description of what is included). Once again, there was one eight-digit item at the top that far exceeded anything else. Last year, the Bay Psalm Book went for more than double the second highest priced item. This year, it was more than triple.

 

More telling about the overall health of the upper end of the market was the price at #500. This year, the low end of the top 500 was more than $10,000 higher than last year, coming in right around $80,000. Those with the means were spending it more freely in 2014. What we also see is a shift in the market. Whereas books once dominated this list, ephemeral material that in the past rarely made it to these lofty prices is now filling the majority of places. One of a kind manuscripts, both beautifully illuminated ones from many centuries ago, and those of historic importance are bringing high prices. Original illustrations used in books are often bringing in prices much greater than the books themselves.

 

Another form of book, virtually unheard of at the top a few years ago, is now peppered throughout the list. We are talking about comic books, and the original art created for them. They particularly dominate twentieth century material on the list, while books and illuminated manuscripts are strongest among the older works.

 

This past year, the most appearances were made not by Shakespeare or Washington or names we have seen in the past. An amazing performance was put in by a name it is unlikely most Americans even know. The leader for 2014 is Belgian Georges Remi, better known (but probably not to most Americans) as Hergé. Hergé was a comic book writer and artist, creator of the strip and character Tintin. Hergé's creations fill an incredible 14 places in the Top 500. Most are original artwork for Tintin's comic book adventures. Another frequent visitor to the list is John James Audubon, the result of auctions of individual plates from his Birds of America conducted by the Arader Galleries. Single plates are now so highly valued that they make the Top 500. The Beatles also made numerous appearances. They come in the form of manuscripts - letters, music lyrics, and drafts of a number of writings by John Lennon.

 

Still, that does not mean there is no room for the great names in literature and history. They are still here where they belong. You will find writers such as Fitzgerald, Carroll, Whitman, Baudelaire, Beckett, Proust, Salinger, the Bronte Sisters, Goethe, Hemingway, Camus, Melville, Potter, Joyce, Doyle, Tolkien, Nabokov, Kerouac, Wilde, Eliot, Austen, Hugo, Roth, Baum, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, Chaucer and Shakespeare.

 

From political leadership there is Washington, Napoleon, Churchill, Kennedy, Jefferson, Paine, Gandhi, Revere, Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, John Smith, and Catherine of Aragon (the first Mrs. Henry VIII).

 

From science and exploration we find Darwin, Cook, Ptolemy, Lewis & Clark, Flinders, Newton, Kepler, Watson, Champlain, Drake, Galileo, Bligh, Einstein, and Copernicus.

 

From the field of music we have Rachmaninov, Dylan, Mozart, the Beatles, and Beethoven.

 

Here are the top 10 highest prices from 2014. At the end of this list is a link to the complete Top 500.

 

10. An unfinished Mozart manuscript Kyrie. It is undated, but has been estimated, based on handwriting, as coming from 1772 when Mozart was 16 years old. $971,880.

 

9. We hear of huge prices for American superhero comics, but 2014 was the year of Tintin, the French reporter. This item is cover art for L'Ile Noire (the Black Island), original black and white version, by Hergé (Georges Remi), 1942. $1,385,344.

 

7. Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, by Raoul Lefevre, circa 1473-74. This history of Troy is noted as the first book printed in English, by translator and printer William Caxton. $1,851,075.

 

7. Illuminated vellum manuscript Missal for use in Udine, circa 1430-35. $1,851,075.

 

6. Autograph manuscript for Sergei Rachmaninov's Second Symphony in E Minor, circa 1908. $2,020,200.

 

5. Original autograph manuscript of Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, recorded in 1965. $2,045,000.

 

4. The Birds of America, a double elephant folio first edition (1827-38). The Indiana Historical Society copy that was once used in a library, making it a good but not great copy (hence the “cheap” price). Until just over a year ago, another copy of Birds achieved the highest price ever for a printed book at auction. $3,525,000.

 

3. He's back again. A double page of 34 drawings of Tintin and related characters/scenes from 1937 by Hergé. It achieved a record price for a work related to comics. Take that, man of steel! $3,636,528.

 

2. The first printing of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible) in its original language, and the first printed Hebrew book which includes vowels and signs. Contains Rashi's commentaries. Printed in January 1482. $3,871,845.

 

1. The Rothschild Prayerbook, a Book of Hours circa 1505-10, that is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance manuscript illumination. $13,605,000.

 

To see the complete AE Top 500 list click here.

 

An Explanation of What Is Included in the List

 

This list covers the top items in books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera (or works on paper), which of necessity requires some parameters. Here is what gets in: books of any kind, maps and manuscripts virtually all, with ephemera, it depends. Most “ephemera” in the works on paper field consists of images – photographs, prints, drawings, paintings. If all of these were included, virtually the entire top 500 would be art, but that's a different field. What is included are images that are in effect textual, that is, they relay information more than beauty. Photographs from the dawn of the discovery of photography, or those which capture historical events are included. Photographs of Lincoln, war, and the suffering of the Depression are in. Photographs by photographic artists are not. Drawings and paintings intended for books are in. Every year, there is always some E. H. Shepard artwork for Winnie-the-Pooh included. Drawings for comic books are included too. Why? Because of the second word in the expression “comic books.” However, Picasso and Warhol, who would dominate the list if included, are not.

 

Books that are essentially coffee table books, plates of images and little else, still make the cut. They may be art, but they are still books. Put them in a portfolio, and they are out.

 

Almost everything on the list is composed of paper, but even that is not a certainty. Vellum manuscripts or sheepskin make the cut. Once in awhile, there is something totally different, like cuneiform tablets. They are really just yesterday's manuscripts. If anyone ever discovers the true first edition of the Ten Commandments, it too will make the list.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>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>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

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