Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2005 Issue

The AE Top 350 Book Auction Results For 2004!

Macpsalter

The "Macclesfield Psalter", a 14th Century illuminated manuscript, was the most expensive book at auction in 2004


By Michael Stillman

Another year has drawn to a close, and we are now in the season of top ten lists for 2004. Traditionally, those of us in the rare book trade have had to sit on the sidelines as lists of the best selling new books, or most popular movies and television programs, flashed by. Not any more. We at the Americana Exchange have put together a list of the top 10 sales at book auctions, along with a bonus of 340 more entries. Welcome to the Americana Exchange 350, the three hundred fifty highest prices paid at book auctions during the past year. For those who can't wait any longer to see the list, there is a link at the end of this article to the AE 350 for 2004.

First, a quick explanation. The Americana Exchange follows over 80 worldwide auction houses for book auctions. The results of these auctions are added regularly to the AE Database (Advertisement Warning: to learn more about the AE Database or subscribe, click "Bibliographic Database" on the menu to the left). In 2004, we covered around 280 book auctions, or more than one per business day. Total lots were over 112,000 containing more than 400,000 items. Within these records is a fairly clear picture of just where the market for books really is today, as opposed to the fantasy prices often found on online sites. But that's a story for another day. What we most want to see is the prices paid for those items we cannot afford. That's what the Americana Exchange 350 is all about.

Not all of these items are truly "books." At the upper ranges, manuscripts and signed documents are heavily represented. These one-of-a-kind documents frequently fetch higher prices than printed books. Sketchbooks by famed artists may not be the typical book for sale, but they bring some of the highest prices. This is really a list of books, manuscripts, and ephemera that come from auctions with a heavy focus on books.

It will probably not come as a great surprise that the top end of the list is dominated by two auction houses: Sotheby's and Christies. All of the top 20 most expensive lots were auctioned by these houses, as were 92 of the top 100. Sotheby's had 59, Christie's 33, with Bonham's next at 5. The top sale was over $3 million, four were over $1 million, and 302 were over $100,000. And if you think the top 10 list won't be impressive, here are a few that didn't quite make it: 37, an autographed Sherlock Holmes manuscript from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; 35, 43 letters from Ernest Hemingway; 19, a contemporary broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence, 17, an autographed manuscript by Sir Isaac Newton; 15, a telegram from Lincoln to Grant ordering no negotiations with Lee other than surrender; 13, an autographed Mozart manuscript; 12, an annotated proof copy of The Scarlet Letter as revised by Hawthorne. This last item was recently in the news when it was discovered in the archives of a small Massachusetts library.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

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