• <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov 20:</b> GAZA, Theodorus. <i>Introductivae grammatices libriquatuor.</i> Venice: Aldus Manutius, 25 December 1495. €40,000 to 50,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov 20:</b> MACHIAVELLI, Niccolo. <i>Historie di Nicolo Machiavegli cittadino, et segretario fiorentino</i>... Rome: Antonio Blado, 25 March 1532. €15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov 20:</b> BELLMER, Hans -- ELUARD, Paul. <i>Les Jeux de la Poupée. Illustrés de textes par Paul Eluard.</i> Paris : les Editions Premieres, 1949. €30,000 to 40,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov 20:</b> [BONNARD, Pierre] - VERLAINE, Paul. <i>Parallèlement.</i> Paris : Imprimerie nationale & Ambroise Vollard, 1900. €30,000 to 40,000
  • <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> KNIGHT, HILARY. The Original Portrait of Eloise that Hung at the Plaza Hotel. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> WARHOL, ANDY. "Iced Lemon Delight," an Original Watercolor Presented to Hilary Knight's cat, Phoebe $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SENDAK, MAURICE. <i>Where the Wild Things Are.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED with drawing to Hilary Knight in the month following publication. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> NOLAND, KENNETH. Original circle painting, untitled, acrylic and ink on cloth, for cover of monograph $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> TOULOUSE-LAUTREC. <i>Histoires Naturelles,</i> 1899. With 22 original lithographs. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>A Collection of Poems,</i> [1711]. The first authoritative and complete collected Sonnets.$15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> LONDON, JACK. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> 1903. First edition, first state jacket. $2,000 to 3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript of "Build Soil," 12 pp, 1932-1936. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> GOULD, GLENN. Glenn Gould's extensively annotated copy of Bach's Goldberg Variations $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> PLATH, SYLVIA. EARLY Autograph Letter Signed, about her beginnings as a writer, Northampton, MA, 1951. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> HOUDINI, HARRY. A collection of 11 cast iron shackle and lock items from Houdini's personal collection. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> M4 ENGIMA MACHINE, with very rare RARE HYDRA KEY ENVELOPE. $400,000 to 600,000
  • <b>Sotheby’s Paris: Livres et Manuscrits. November 21, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> ANDRÉ BRETON, <i>La Lampe dans l’horloge.</i> Paris, Robert Marin, 1948. Binding by Rose Adler, dated 1959. €15,000 to €20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> ARTHUR RIMBAUD, <i>Une Saison en enfer.</i> Bruxelles, Alliance typographique, 1873. Binding by Rose Adler. €25,000 to €35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> TRISTAN TZARA, <i>La Bonne heure.</i> Paris, Raymond Jacquet 1955. Binding by Rose Adler, dated 1958. €8,000 to €12,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris: Livres et Manuscrits. November 21, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> PIERRE REVERDY, <i>La Lucarne ovale.</i> Paris, 1916. Binding by Rose Adler, dated 1949. €20,000 to €30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> RENÉ CHAR, PABLO PICASSO, <i>Le Marteau sans maître and Moulin Premier.</i> 1927-1935. Paris, José Corti, 1945. Binding by Rose Adler, dated 1947. €20,000 to €30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> MARCEL PROUST, Friendly correspondence to the count Louis Gautier-Vignal. 1914-1921. €20,000 to €30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris: Livres et Manuscrits. November 21, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> JEAN COCTEAU, Portrait of the Baron de Charlus, circa 1921-1923. Original drawing signed. €7,000 to €10,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> PAUL ÉLUARD, JOAN MIRÓ, <i>À toute épreuve.</i> Genève, Gérald Cramer, 1958. First illustrated edition. €15,000 to €25,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> PAUL VERLAINE, PIERRE BONNARD, <i>Parallèlement.</i> Paris, Imprimerie nationale, Ambroise Vollard, 1900. €15,000 to €25,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Nov, 21:</b> GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE, ANDRÉ DERAIN, <i>L’Enchanteur pourrissant.</i> Paris, Henry Kahnweiler, 1909. €30,000 to €50,000
  • <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on November 26th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Buch der Chroniken,</i> 1493. Est: € 120,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b> Latin and Book of Hours, around 1500. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b> Biblia latina, Koberger printing 1493. Est: € 4,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on November 26th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>P. de Medina, <i>Libro de grandezas,</i> 1549. Est: € 6,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>C. J. Trew, <i>Plantae selectae,</i> 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>A. de Laborde, <i>Voyage pittoresque,</i> 1806-20. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on November 26th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>G. Klimt, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> 1931.<br>Est: € 10,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>W. Kandinsky, <i>Klänge,</i> 1913.<br>Est: € 20,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>F. Léger, <i>Les illuminations,</i> 1949.<br>Est: € 2,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on November 26th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b> Master binding by E. Maylander, 1945. Est: € 1,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b> Master binding by G. Cretté, 1934. Est: € 6,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 26:</b><br>S. Dalí, <i>Après 50 ans des surréalisme,</i> 1974. Est: € 8,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2016 Issue

The Pirie Sale at Sotheby's Garners Almost $15 Million in Sales

A6097883-04df-4371-9207-38882ed50fea

Interior of Robert Pirie's New York home (courtesy of Sotheby's).

One of the most important book auctions of 2015 took place at Sotheby's in New York in the final month of the year. As can happen when the very best of collections are offered for sale, the figures flew past the estimates of approximately $8-$12 million on the lots that sold, settling at a total of just a hair under $15 million. The sales rate was also unusually high at 85%. Spectacular collections earn spectacular results. The collector of this single-owner sale, who died earlier in the year, was Robert S. Pirie of New York.

 

Robert S. Pirie made his fortune as a corporate lawyer and investment banker. Born in 1934 in Chicago and educated at Harvard, Mr. Pirie became a force in law, then banking, beginning in the 1970's. Despite his rise into high finance, he was a man of progressive political views, not surprising as he was a nephew of 1952 and 1956 Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. It earned him a place on President Richard Nixon's enemies list, which he considered an honor.

 

Long before his foray into the world of high finance, Mr. Pirie developed a love for books. While serving in the Army in Germany in the 1950's, he found an old book by John Donne. It was the start of a collection of thousands of books, specializing in 16th and 17th century English literature. It included some of the greatest examples in the field. It was book collecting he loved perhaps more than any of his other successful ventures. According to the New York Times, he once said he never intended to be a lawyer. "I wanted to become the rare book curator at Harvard."

 

The top price at the Pirie sale went to a special copy of Isaac Newton's seminal work on light, Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. This was a presentation copy of the first edition, first issue of 1704, given to his colleague and supporter astronomer Edmund Halley, forever known for the comet named for him. Halley has marked this copy with the Latin "luceo," which means "I shine," or "I dawn, become light." Sotheby's noted that the significance of this is uncertain, but that Halley also made the same annotation in his copy of Newton's Principia. Newton had actually begun writing the book in the 1670's, but because of differences with Robert Hooke, waited until after his death in 1703 to publish his findings. In this book, Newton announced his discovery that white light is actually composed of all of the colors of the rainbow, expounding on the refraction and combination of light. He also writes about the telescope and his theory of how light travels. Finally, the book concludes with two mathematical papers, designed to show Newton's priority over Leibniz in the discovery of calculus. Of great importance is Newton's enunciation of his use of the scientific method – observation rather than just reasoning – in reaching his conclusions. Newton explains, "My Design in this Book is not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments." Against an estimate of $400,000-$600,000, this copy sold for $1,330,000.

 

The next two highest priced items fittingly came from the greatest name in all of English literature – William Shakespeare. One was the 1619 Pavier-Jaggard second edition of the Merchant of Venice, one of only 26 copies known to survive. This edition is notable as it, along with eight other Shakespearean plays, was meant to be combined in a collected issue, just two years after Shakespeare died and four years before the publishing of the First Folio. However, they ended up being sold separately, or perhaps with the expectation purchasers would bind them together. This rare edition sold for $550,000 against an estimate of $250,000-$350,000.

 

The second Shakespearean item was a copy of the Second Folio. It followed the first by nine years, essentially a reprint of the first. It would be 30 years before another edition was published. The Second Folio includes a poem by John Milton, and as such, it marked the first appearance of Milton in print. It sold for $430,000.

 

Among other items sold was perhaps the most important of sporting books ever, Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler. It took in $206,250, two to three times the estimates. A magnificent letter from the man who started Pirie's collection, John Donne, to Lady Kingsmill was sold for $150,000. In it, Donne comforts his old friend who just lost her husband. He assures her that God reunites such partners in time in accordance with His plan.

 

In all, 1,081 lots were offered over three days at Sotheby's rooms in New York. Total proceeds of the sale were $14,908,379.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. November 29, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Buffon (G.L.M.L., Comte de). <i>Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux,</i> 10 vol., large paper copy, 973 hand-coloured engraved plates drawn and engraved by Franz Nicolaus Martinet, Paris, 1770-86. £70,000 to 90,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Bible (English). The Holy Bible, first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], 1611. £30,000 to 40,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Marlborough (John Churchill, 1st Duke of).- [Parker (Robert, army officer)] <i>[Memoirs of the remarkable military transactions from the year 1688 to 1718],</i> ?autograph manuscript, 300pp., [c. 1718]. £20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. November 29, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> France.- Paris.- Turgot (Michel Etienne). <i>Plan de Paris,</i> engraved maps, contemporary red morocco, gilt, Paris, 1739. £10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Mongolia.- Pallas (Peter Simon). <i>Sammlungen Historischer Nachrichten uber die Mongolischen Volkerschaften,</i> first edition, complete with 31 plates, St. Petersburg, 1776-1801. £10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Brant (Sebastian). <i>Stultifera Navis... The Ship of Fooles, wherein is shewed the folly of all States...,</i> large woodcut title and numerous woodcuts in the text, [London], [John Cawood], 1570. £8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. November 29, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Aldus.- Boccaccio (Giovanni). <i>Il Decamerone,</i> Venice, House of Aldus & Andrea Torresani, 1522. £8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Wallace (Alfred Russel). 77pp. of Autograph letters (and 1 postcard) to various people, 1894-1904, on various palaeontological, geological and natural history matters. £8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> DNA.- Watson (James D.) and Francis Crick, <i>Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,</i> 1953 [and others]. £5,000 to 7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. November 29, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Optics.- Molyneux (William). <i>Dioptrica nova. A Treatise of Dioptricks, in Two Parts,</i> first edition, for Benj. Tooke, 1692. £5,000 to 7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Economics.- Mississippi & South Sea Bubbles.- <i>Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid,</i> 74 engraved plates and 3 maps, Amsterdam, 1720. £4,000 to 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Nov. 29:</b> Asia.- Clouet (Jean Baptiste Louis). <i>Carte D'Asie Divisée en ses Principaux Etats,</i> engraved map with hand-colouring, on wooden rollers, 1782. £3,000 to 5,000
  • <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 Dec 6:</b> Maria Louise Kirk, 4 pen, ink, watercolor & gouache illustrations for <i>Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,</i> 1904. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> H.A. Rey, <i>“Do You Want To Get Across?”</i> colored pencil, charcoal & watercolor, 1939. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Norman Rockwell, <i>The Pharmacist,</i> study for cover of <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1939. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Sir William Russell Flint, illustration for Homer’s <i>Odyssey,</i> gouache & watercolor, 1914. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Ludwig Bemelmans, <i>“And everyone was in his bed,"</i> gouache, watercolor & ink on board, 1961. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Charles M. Shulz, <i>Woodstock is Searching for His Identity,</i> original pen & ink 4-panel <i>Peanuts</i> comic strip, 1972. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> painted collage, 1990. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Jerry Pinkney, <i>The Lion & The Mouse,</i> watercolor & graphite, illustration for <i>School Library Journal,</i> 2009. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Maurice Sendak, watercolor & graphite illustration for <i>Little Bear's New Friend,</i> 2001. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Peter Arno, <i>Circus Tricks,</i> ink, wash & watercolor, cover illustration for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1964. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 6:</b> Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury: <i>“Is Rufus Ready for his Lesson?”,</i> watercolor, pen & ink, circa 1970s. $6,000 to $9,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Rare Books and Works on Paper, including Judaica. November 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Huttich (Johann) & Grynaeus (Simon). <i>Novus orbis regionum ac insularum veteribus …</i> FIRST EDITION, large woodcut folding map, text illustrations, folio, 1532. £8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Warhol (Andy) and Frankfurt (Suzie). <i>Wild Raspberries,</i> ONE OF FEWER THAN 100 COPIES, PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed by Warhol in pencil, 1959. £10,000 to 12,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Meulen (Adam Frans, van der). Collection of Hunting, Genre and Battle Scenes, 27 copper-engraved views, folio, Paris [c. 1685]. £8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Rare Books and Works on Paper, including Judaica. November 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Tyndale's Bible.- Bible, English. <i> [The Newe Testament yet once agayne Corrected by Willyam Tindale],</i> many woodcut text illustrations and initials, 1536. £8,000 to 10,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Jacobson (Ruth Taylor, artist). <i>Messiah's Feast,</i> original stained glass panel, image approx. 1020 x 615 mm., [c.1990]. £8,000 to 10,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Wallerstein-Braun (Gitl, sculptor-photographer). 'Jeremiah', original bronze of the Jewish prophet, approx. 210 x 470 (at base) mm., [c. 2010]. £6,000 to 8,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Rare Books and Works on Paper, including Judaica. November 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Kadishman (Menashe, artist). <i>Goats Head,</i> original acrylic on canvas painting, [Israel], 2002. £2,000 to 3,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Wyllie (W. L.) & Brewer (H. W.). <i>Bird's Eye View of London as seen from a balloon,</i> hand-coloured wood engraving, image 870 x 1100 mm., 1884. £1,800 to 2,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Stained glass window of Jewish interest.- Pilkington glass stained glass window from a demolished synagogue, approx. 580 x 1430 mm. [c.1950]. £1,500 to 2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Rare Books and Works on Paper, including Judaica. November 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Auerbach (Tauba, artist). <i>[2,3],</i> #129 of 1000 copies, with card numbered and signed by the artist/author, 6 vol., one cut-out pop-up figure in each volume, different coloured boards. £1,500 to 2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Costumes. <i>Costumi di Roma e dei Contorni,</i> engraved vignette title and 30 plates, Santarello, Rome, 1846; and 3 others (4). £1,000 to 1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Nov 28:</b> Morris (William). <i>The Well at the World’s End,</i> one of 350 copies, The Kelmscott Press, 1896. £800 to 1,200
  • <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>The first edition, in the original wrappers, of the first part of Pushkin’s masterpiece – ‘a bibliographical rarity of the highest order’ (Smirnov-Sokol’skii). £25,000 to £35,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>The very rare first edition of Gogol’s first masterpiece and his first obtainable book. £50,000 to £70,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>The first edition of Dostoevsky's <i>Brat'ia Karamazovy</i> (1830) in a superb contemporary cloth presentation binding. £22,000 to £30,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>The first edition of the first version of the opening of <i>War and Peace,</i> with the original paper covers. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>An early corrected typescript of Akhmatova's <i>Poema bez geroia</i> (July 1946) £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>A presentation copy of the first edition of <i>Kamen</i> (1913) inscribed by Mandel'shtam to his early mentor the poet Viacheslav Ivanov. £60,000 to £90,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>Rare autograph correspondence from Vladislav Khodasevich, including a manuscript of his long poem 'Sorrento Photographs' (1921). £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Christie’s London, 28 November:</b><br>An important letter from Marina Tsvetaeva to the poet Nikolai Tikhonov (1935) in which she challenges Pasternak and his views on poetry. £12,000 to £18,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions