Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2017 Issue

Feb. 14: Icons & Images, a Sale of Photographs and Photobooks at Swann Auction Galleries


Highlights from Swann's Feb. 14 sale of Icons & Images

As technology has transformed the world of works on paper, the value of collectible items has shifted towards things that are aesthetically pleasing. One reason for owning books—the knowledge contained within—has largely disappeared due to digitization. Maps have seen their value hold up comparatively well, and comics are enjoying a boom (though youth is a big factor). Another collectible arena falling under the aesthetic umbrella, and which toes the line separating art and works on paper, is photography. This month, on February 14th, Swann Auction Galleries is hosting Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobook, a remarkable assortment of 325 lots depicting significant people and moments in history, as well as work by well-known photographers.

The single highest estimate in the sale is lot 13, which is a selection of 50 plates from Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion of figures in the midst of various activities like riding and jumping horses, somersaulting, and playing cricket, as well as animals such as a sloth, deer, and jaguar. These photographs come from a University of Pennsylvania-supported project between 1883 and 1886 in which Muybridge produced 100,000 pictures in his series dubbed “Animal Locomotion." They were subsequently published in sets of 100. This 50-image set is estimated $30,000 – 45,000.

The sale’s catalog cover bears the image from lot 75, entitled Portrait of Dorothy Norman, which was taken by Alfred Stieglitz in the 1930s. Though not as famous as Stieglitz, Norman was mentored by Stieglitz and is respected for her work as a photographer as well as a liberal advocate and essayist. The specific portrait being auctioned may be unique. It is estimated $20,000 – 30,000.

Another photographer that bears no need for introduction is Ansel Adams. Lot 61, Clearing Winter Storm, is a magnificent photograph of Yosemite Valley taken as storm clouds give way to clearer skies over the valley. Seeing Yosemite in person is an experience worth seeking, but seeing Yosemite through the camera of Ansel Adams is a different one entirely. That being said, visiting the national park in person is quite a bit cheaper than owning Adams’ work—this photograph is estimated $25,0000 – 35,000.

If Ansel Adams’ work is considered among the best views on the planet, then lot 285 must be considered among the best views off the planet. Thirty photographs from various NASA missions including astronauts floating in space and on the moon, and topographic views of Earth make up a truly unique set. These are the only Cibachrome (Ilfochrome) [hopefully these terms mean something to photography aficionados] prints made from the original positives and were featured at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum beginning in 1985. More than six million people have seen them. You can have the final say on who else gets to lay their eyes on them for an estimated $15,000 – 25,000.

It wouldn’t be right to preview a sale of Icons without actually covering some. Lots 70 and 188 are two striking images that fall under this category; they are universally recognizable (at least in the states). Migrant Mother, the image taken by Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression, has come to be one of the defining images for the period and has been widely reproduced. This particular copy was printed in the 1950s and is estimated $10,000 – 15,000. The other icon that jumped out at me is an image that graced the cover of National Geographic in 1985 and may just be the most famous cover of that magazine.The image is Afghan Girl by Steve McMurry, and though the title may be unfamiliar, the picture will not. The portrait of the girl with striking eyes is estimated $10,000 – 15,000.

The catalog of Icons & Images is well worth browsing, with moments like the construction of the Empire State Building, the 1936 Olympics, and the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco shown in vivid detail, and portraits and pictures of significant figures from the last two centuries waiting to be seen again. The entire catalog is viewable online on Swann Auction Galleries’ website

Icons & Images will take place February 14th at 1:30 eastern. Bidding is available via the usual methods of live, absentee, telephone, and internet. Registration with Swann is required for first-time bidders.

Preview dates and times are as follows:

Feb 9 to 11: 12-5 eastern

Feb 13: 12-5 eastern

Feb 14: 10-12 eastern


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <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>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>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions