• <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Ackermann, Rudolph—Uwins, Thomas. A collection of 240 drawings for Rudolph Ackermann's <i>Repository of Arts</i> magazine, 1809-1828. £20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Willem Janszoon, and Joan. <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Sive Atlas Novus in Quo Tabulae et Descriptiones Omnium Regionum.</i> 1640-1654. £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Mercator, Gerard and Jodocus Hondius. <i>L’Atlas ou Méditations Cosmographiques de la Fabrique du Monde et Figure Diceluy.</i> 1613. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Speed, John. <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isles Adjoyning...</i> £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Wit, Frederick De. [General Atlas], With The Engraved Title For Atlas Maior. Amsterdam, [C.1688-1696]. £50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Kuntz, Joh. Rudolph. <i>[Abbildungen Königlich Württembergischer Gestütts-Pferde von Orientalischen Racen.</I> Stuttgart: Ebner 1823–1824]. £30,000 – 40,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Lawrence, T.E. Ivory Silk Thawb, Or Under-Robe, Presented by Lawrence of Arabia to a family friend. £10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Archipelagus Orientalis Sive Asiaticus</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £200,000 – 250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Asiae Descriptio Novissima</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Japanese bird paintings—(Rinchô Zu). A Pair Of Painted Scrolls of Birds. [Japan, Late 18th Or Early 19th Century]. £25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Huang, Qianren. Da Qing Wannian Yitong Tianxia Quantu [Complete Map of the Whole Unified Country of the Great Qing]. [1803]. £80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Sôkaku or Ryôsei Jôkei. Da Ming Sheng Tu, [Map of (China Under) The Great Ming Dynasty]. (1691 Or 1711). £80,000 – 120,000
  • <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

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2015 Issue

Gossiping in Montignac-Lascaux - Is the only summer auction in France worth attending?

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A first edition of La Perouse's Voyage Around the World was offered.

August is the dead period for old books. Drouot closes its doors by mid-July and other websites like interenchères.com only list one auction sale in France for the period, the Galatau Pastaud's, which takes place every year in Montignac-Lascaux, Dordogne. Unfortunately, it suffers from a bad reputation. So, is the only old book sale of the season worth attending? “Of course,” according to Pierre Poulain, the expert for the sale. “Only if you're Russian,” giggles Mr. Labrish, a local bookseller.

 

Montignac-Lascaux is a highly touristic place, located 500 kilometers south of Paris, in the heart of the countryside. Its worldwide known prehistoric cave attracts dozens of thousands people every year. Yet, it's a strange location to host an old books sales. “In August 1995,” explained Pierre Poulain on the phone, “my friend Mr. Galatau, who works as an auctioneer in the nearby city of Limoges, and who owns a house nearby Montignac-Lascaux, called me for a sale which featured a handful of antiquarian books. Surprisingly, they sold very well. We went on from there.” But according to a few booksellers around, there's something fishy about this sale, one of the biggest of the year. «We all know where these books come from» smiled one of them - let's call him Mr. Labrish. «This is just a big made-up sale!» Meaning, the books are collected from various sources and not from a unique collection. «And the best sales,» resumed Mr. Labrish, «are the 'real' ones, those built up around the collection of a true bibliophile.» Pierre Poulain seemed quite aware of these rumors. “They come from wicked tongues; a couple of jealous and bitter booksellers, who tried to work with us, but whom we turned down since they asked too much for their books. And yes, this is a made-up sale; all sales are, including those of Christies'! There's no more great book collections around. Our 2015 sale features 50 various sellers; the books mostly come from three different estates, the collection of an old man from Limoges and, yes, from various booksellers, who sell off a part of their stocks. But that's how the business runs, and if we had been taking people for a ride all these years, we wouldn't be around since 1995.” Well, Madoff’s forgery lasted quite a long time, didn't it?

 

Mr Labrish's book store is open in the summer as he tries to benefit from the flow of tourists too. As an expert for a nearby auction house, he knows every trick in the game; and he laughed when asked if he would attend the sale of Montignac-Lascaux. «These books aren't interesting!» he said. «You know why? Because most of them are collected from professional booksellers who've been trying in vain to sell them, sometimes for years! If they haven't succeeded, it's because they ask too much for them.»

 

But our booksellers are honest merchants, of course – and they would never be part of a tricky business. Unfortunately, as times get hard every opportunity becomes an option. “The rare and luxury books will always sell at good prices,” said Pierre Poulain, “but we've stopped selling the smallest ones, as nobody buys them anymore. That's because the small booksellers, who used to buy them, disappear by the hour.” And that might embitter some of them. According to Mr. Labrish, many “dignified” booksellers even try to sell at Montignac-Lascaux nowadays. «I had to laugh when I saw some books coming from the shop of a well-known bookseller. I asked him: How dare you, after repeating for years you would never work with Galateau Pastaud? The books you listed in their catalog are already listed in yours, with their recognizable ex-libris!»

 

Apparently, to work with this sale openly makes it even worse. The real problem, Mr. Labrish said, lies in the reserve prices that prevent the books from selling for a “regulated” price. «If you noticed, the appraisals of the few interesting books in the catalog are ridiculously high.» But how does it work, then? “Well,” smiled Mr Labrish, “first, I guess the room in Montignac-Lascaux doesn't cost them a lot. For the mayor of the city, it's a good thing to welcome an alleged prestigious event. These books are supposed to attract some wealthy tourists, and it adds a cultural event on the agenda of the city. So they probably get the room for free. Furthermore, they don't care. They charge both the buyer and the seller 25 or 26%, (in fact, 21,10% for buyers, NDLR). Except bookseller, of course, who aren't charged more than 10%, I guess.»

 

But if they don't sell most of the books, what's the use? «Well, the last time, some Russian buyers attended the sale and paid ridiculous prices for a lot of books! That made the day of the auctioneers! Trust me, unless you wish to be the butt of the joke, you don't want to bid at this auction sale.» A few days before the sale, Pierre Poulain wasn't worried. “If we're lucky, we'll sell 70 to 80% of the items; if unlucky, maybe 50%. The book business has changed. We used to have some powerful buyers, a few years ago. Some Russians, indeed but not only; there were some Belgians and even some French. They've disappeared, probably because they had “too much” money at the time – it couldn’t last. And we sell 40% of our books through “live auction” on the internet! We must explain to the sellers that the market has evolved. The copies of Cook's voyages have lost a lot of value, for instance; and a book which was worth 150 euros yesterday might be worth 80 euros today. But at least it's still selling! Honestly, I think that the business is now stabilized. Right after the crisis in 2008, I feared that old books might go down just like the antique furniture. The biggest weakness of the market comes for the buyers of the upper middle-class, whose purchase power has suffered from the crisis. But there's a new generation of buyers; they’re in their thirties or forties, and they keep old books alive. Out of the roughly 1,000 French buyers of old books who exist today, 2 or 3 should build some exceptional collections.

 

Upon learning that this article was to be published by an American website, Pierre Poulain sighed: “The American buyers totally disappeared from auction sales when the dollar was so low; they're crawling back nowadays, but we've grown suspicious. Indeed, we've had bad experiences with several American buyers who never paid for the books they had bid on. It was getting even worse than with the Italians, at one point.” Wow! Come on, American buyers... “worse than the Italians”? Pull yourselves together quick, please.

 

No sale is a prophet in its own region. Mr. Labrish's opinion isn't isolated in Dordogne, but I noticed, while speaking with him, that he was trying to sell me a book I thought was overestimated. I didn't buy it. Hey! Who knows? It might resurface on a next Montignac-Lascaux sale; and I might get a better bargain – if no Russian is around, that is.

 

(c) T. Ehrengardt

 

Editorial Note:  Since this article was published, the auction house of Mr. Poulain has been in touch with us. They affirm that they do pay for the room where the sale takes place every year, in Montignac-Lascaux.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Book of hours, manuscript on vellum. Around 1520. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Liber chronicarum</i>. 1493. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br><i> Biblia germanica</i>. 1475/1476.<br>Est: € 140,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. Ortelius, <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum</i>. 1574. Est: € 26,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>L. de Varthema, <i>Die ritterlich und lobwirdig Rays</i>. 1515. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. H. van Linschoten, <i>His Discours of Voyages</i>. 1598. Est: € 70,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. G. Stedman, <i>Narrative of Surinam</i>. 1806. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. von Menzel, <i>Armeewerk Friedrichs d. Gr.</i> 1850-1860. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>G. Heym, <i>Umbra Vitae</i>. 1924.<br>Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Master binding by G. Levitzky. 1914. Est: € 2,500
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>R. Char, <i>A la santé du serpent</i>. 1954. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Nam June Paik, <i>Fluxus Testament</i>. 1975. Est: € 18,000
  • <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
  • <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>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

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