Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2016 Issue

AbeBooks Most Expensive Books of 2015 Includes Their Most Expensive Book Ever

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Plates from the Natural History of Birds.

We've all entered our credit card number into an online order form and then, with some trepidation, clicked "submit." How many of us have done so when the amount was $191,000? Someone placed such an order on AbeBooks this past year, and the book tops the list of AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales in 2015. It was almost three times the price of the previous most expensive item sold on the site, a modest $65,000. There are many people searching Abe for dollar books, but there's another universe out there of serious collectors, the ones for whom AbeBooks offers the option of searching by highest price instead of lowest. Here is the top 10 list of Abebooks' most expensive items sold in 2015.

 

10. The Story of Project Mercury, America's Man-in-Space Program, by Martin Caidin, published in 1960. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space. By the following year, an embarrassed American government responded with the initiation of project Mercury. The space race was on. The Soviets would beat the Americans to the first person in space as well in the year after this book was published, but by 1963, when Project Mercury ended, the U.S. had lifted six people into space. This copy was signed by all seven of the first American astronauts, including Alan Shepard, first American in space, and John Glenn, first American to orbit the earth. $18,500.

 

9. The Holy Bible, published by Mark Baskett in London in 1767. This book certainly needs no introduction. However, the edition needs some. Baskett was the official printer for the King, a position passed down from his ancestors. $18,928.

 

8. Lord of the Rings (trilogy), by J. R. R. Tolkien, published 1953-1955. Three volumes, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, all first editions, signed by the author. $19,492.

 

7. Scenes of Clerical Life, by George Eliot, a first edition published in January 1858. There were 1,050 copies printed in the first edition, but this is one of just eight that were presentation copies from the author. This was Eliot's first book of fiction, published before anyone new that "George Eliot" was a pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans. $20,000.

 

6. The Grounde of Artes, by Robert Record, published in 1579. When spelling like that is used, you know the book is very old. It was first published in 1543. At least 45 editions had been published by 1699. This was a popular book. It was one of the earliest textbooks in mathematics. Record is recognized as the creator of the equals sign. $22,083.

 

5. Plantes de la France, by Jaume Saint-Hilaire, published via subscription from 1819-1822. This is a first edition of a spectacular 10-volume botanical set including a thousand illustrations printed in color. $22,549.

 

4. Sertum Orchidaceum: A Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers, by John Lindley, published in 1838. This is a particularly attractive orchid book containing 49 hand-colored lithographed plates. $24,643.

 

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, published in 1964. This one ties for second best known book on this list with Tolkien. Ten thousand copies of this first edition were printed, selling out in a few weeks, but very few of them are inscribed by Dahl as was this copy. The bookseller was Raptis Rare Books of Vermont. $25,000.

 

2. Pangeometria, by Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevskii, published in Russian in 1856. If you want to look up this 19th century Russian mathematician, be prepared to try a number of other spellings, including Lobachevski, Lobachevsky, and Lobatschewsky. You will need to be an expert in geometry to understand this book in any language. $34,245.

 

1. Storia naturale degli uccelli... by Saverio Manetti, published in Florence in 1765. The title translates to "Natural history of birds..." This book, commissioned by the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, contains 600 hand-colored plates of birds. This five-volume folio set may have been the most spectacular book on birds published up to that time, anticipating the great ornithology books of Audubon, Gould and others in the 19th century. Antiquarian plate books of birds are very popular today, with individual plates from Audubon regularly selling for enormous amounts. $191,000.

 

AbeBooks' list of their top 20 sales, plus some very interesting others, can be found at the following link: www.abebooks.com/rare-books/most-expensive-sales/year-2015.shtml

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>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
  • <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.

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