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>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: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Copper Printing Plate for "Marshall's Household Engraving of Washington." $500 to $1000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Important Documentary Painting Showing Baseball Great Ty Cobb in Cuba. $1,000 to $2,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> <i>Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age</i>, Inscribed by Bill Wilson. $500 to $1,000
    <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983), <i>Prise à l'hameçon.</i> $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Maurice Dufrène (French, 1876-1955), <i>Rayon des Soieries</i>. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> William Pope.L (American, b. 1955), <i>Intimacy Project</i>. $2,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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>

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