Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2016 Issue

June 8: Aristotle's Perfect Gem and the Black Tulip of Presidential Autographs at Bonhams

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Material from Fine Books and Manuscripts mentioned in this auction preview

On June 8th, Bonhams will bring a sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts to its New York showroom. Featuring what they call, "one of the finest printed books to have appeared in these rooms," as well as a wide range of early material, maps, literature, Americana, and autographs spanning the 15th through 20th centuries, many subjects and niches are tapped, and serious collectors will do well to browse the catalog in full. A direct link to the online catalog can be found at the bottom of this auction preview.

The headlining item of the sale happens to be lot number one and has been described as "a perfect gem" in the Syston Park Library catalogue. In Bonhams' own words, Aristotle's De animalibus [De historia animalium. De partibus animalium. De generatione animalium.] (1476) is "the earliest work known of comprehensive natural history written from the perspective of an impartial observer." The specific copy being offered is a first edition and is only one of two known copies printed on vellum, the other kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Any printing of the first edition is exceedingly rare, with three copies appearing at auction since 1978, the most recent occurrence in 2001. The estimated price for such an important rarity is $300,000-500,000.

Map collectors, especially those of the new world, should find several items of interest. The second lot of the sale, Peter Apian's Cosmographia, sive descriptio universi orbis (1584) includes a folding wood-cut world map which is one of the earliest to name America (est. $5,000-7,000). And Lot 27 is Henri Joutel's Journal historique du dernier voyage que feu M. De la Sale fit dans le Golfe de Mexique, pour trouver l'embouchure, et le cours de la Riviere de Missicipi.... (1713), a first edition of the only eye-witness account of the last expedition of the French explorer La Salle and containing a folding engraved map dubbed Carte nouvelle de la Louisiane (est. $8,000-12,000).

Modern literature makes a relatively brief, but strong showing, with a signed first edition of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (lot 79, est. $25,000-35,000) and an incomplete (but considered superior as these were given by the author to friends) limited first edition of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (lot 77, est. $40,000-60,000).

For natural history enthusiasts, an album of eighty-three gelatin silver print photos from three exploratory voyages to the Artic under the direction of Donald B. MacMillan between 1921 and 1925 may be of interest (lot 12, est. $2,000-3,000). A second octavo edition of Audubon's The Quadrupeds of North America is listed as lot 14 for an estimated $3,000-5,000. Also, be sure to look up lot 16, Pierre Joseph Buc'hoz's Premiere [-Seconde] Centurie de Planches Enluminees et Non Enluminees Representant au Naturel, Ce qui se trouve de plus Interessant et de plus Curieux parmi les Animaux, les Vegetaux et les Mineraux, a four volume set in two parts which contains 200 hand-colored plates and 200 in plain state (est. $14,000-20,000). Lastly, a rare version of George Catlin's [North American Indian Portfolio: Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America] including six additional plates along with the twenty-five original is one of 350 copies printed. This work was among the fruits of Catlin spending eight years living amongst various Native American tribes, and a truer view of Indian life does not exist (lot 117, est. $15,000-20,000).

A fifteen lot run of Amelia Earhart items (lots 124-138) will no doubt appeal to collectors of this particular aviator or of aviation in general. Featuring autographed and signed material, as well as an array of photographs and other miscellaneous items, the foundation of a budding collection or sizeable addition to an existing project is contained within the sale. Also of note and related to aviation are two postcards signed by Wilbur Wright, one depicting the first American woman to fly as a passenger in an airplane (lot 152, est. $3,000-5,000), the other a reproduction of a photograph of the Wright flyer (lot 153, est. $3,000-5,000).

The auction closes with an offering of autographs from the collection of Harry Gould, Jr., the prize being a document signed as President by William Henry Harrison. Only twelve such autographs, called the Black Tulip of Presidential autographs, are known to be in private hands. Harrison held office for a mere thirty days. This superbly rare autograph is listed under lot 183 for an estimated $40,000-60,000. One other lot presidential autograph hounds may be keen on is the preceding lot, number 182 (est. $5,000-8,000), being the autograph of James A. Garfield as President. This one is also rare because of the President's short term; Garfield's lasted six months.

The full catalog for Fine Books and Manuscripts can be accessed on the Bonhams website. Registration prior to bidding is required and can be done online here. The sale begins on June 8 at 1:00 pm EDT.

Rare Book Monthly

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