Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2017 Issue

Eric Caren: Satisfied Seller at Christie's

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I am not known to mince words.  I give 100 percent and I expect 100 percent back.  On June 15th in New York, some of my best material came up for sale at Christie’s and my expectations were exceeded in every way. The realized prices were fabulous (all in, approximately $1.3 million for my one hundred lots) and the single owner special catalog they issued for my 100 plus lots was splendid.  I worked hand in hand with Christina Geiger (for the third time) and Peter Klarnet on the catalogue and they were supervised and assisted by Sven Becker who is the proverbial gentleman and scholar. The descriptions were concise yet informative and appealing. The previews were professional; and the videos, both in house and on Instagram, were handled beautifully by Christie's Social Media Dept. My decision to let Peter Klarnet narrate the videos was rewarded in spades and I later teased him that he should get an Oscar. His voice was sharp and his observations sharper still.  [I believe they can still be viewed on Instagram by doing a @christiesinc search for them.]

 

The auctioneer was as good as the one Dennis Holzman and I employed (Dale Stulz) when we started HCA back in the 1990's to replace Brian Riba Auctions. I was a friend to both Brian and his former partner Bill Mobley (one of the founders of The Ephemera Society).  I think that Dale had done auctions for either Christie's, Sotheby's or both.  Whichever, wherever he was good but not better than the auctioneer who called this sale.

 

For the event I was offered a skybox view but I had more buying to do while in New York City and afterwards in Massachusetts. For those who know me, this will not be a shock. In just the week following the sale, I added a Henry VIII tract condemning to death one of his wives and also containing the first English language law on Witchcraft, a run of London newspapers printed in 1693 and containing the Salem Witchcraft trials.  And there is more - a splendid and famous Einstein letter to a soldier about his reasons for being an atheist, an unrecorded variant American Bunker Hill broadside, an illustrated 1620's European Americana broadside and a letter group including one from Ft. Defiance and another from Libby Prison (with the guy's GAR kepi)! Obviously, my passion for this wonderful "Lifestyle" has not diminished since I started a half century ago (ouch that hurt to say) when I was 7.

 

One very special moment of the sale touched me deeply. I heard the auctioneer refer to someone in the room as "young man" and knew he would only do that if he was talking to a young man and he was...13! Apparently, this young man was there bidding with his young friend (rumors are that he/they won a lot or two). I was so moved, that I subsequently gifted 2 original 17th century items through Christie's to them with the hopes that they too will continue until they are old enough to do the same for their next generation.

 

I was equally moved by a preview brunch attended by fellow members of The Grolier Club, etc. Unfortunately, I was not present. But then I had a special visit from two of the great wordsmiths of our time; both friends of mine. Sir Harold Evans and Will Shortz met me at Christie's and I gave them a private tour of my sale. They have a lot in common. Sir Harry was a table tennis champ back in the 1940's and Will has one of the largest private table tennis clubs in the nation in Westchester, NY where I have had the "pleasure" of being trounced by Will. I really appreciated their support and we had some laughs together. Will got his original first ever Crossword puzzle printed (1913) decades ago from me.

 

I have never lost my childhood sense of wonder and I am grateful that Christie's made every moment of the experience memorable. I dedicated my catalog to Chris Coover, for over 35 years a Christie’s specialist, and I dedicate this article to Christie's and their fine staff. Christie’s auctioned my first "big sale" when I was 15: a 19th century Italian painting for which I paid $100, then returning my investment 10 times over.

 

There are lessons from this and indeed every sale. Many of them I have known for a long time. Many of you will know them too, but I hope that these lessons will be helpful to others.

 

Lesson #1- You never know at an auction which item(s) may take off (Star Spangled Banner lots, Jack the Ripper Handbill and Laus Deo Banner Headline on Cornwallis' Surrender)

 

Lesson #2- There are bargains to be had at every auction, even and perhaps, especially, at the highest level. The illustrated broadside on the Death of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian 1519, the King Philip's Indian War manuscript, the Edison Lab drawing of the Light Bulb and the Zenger newspaper from prison, to my way of thinking, fall into this category.

 

Lesson #3- Buy what you love! When I started with rare newspapers they hardly ever made it into any auctions much less Christie's. Now many sell for 6 figures and many more 5 figures and I believe they still have a long way to go!

 

Lesson #4- All that is Gold does not Glitter! My material tends to be rather dull aesthetically but boy do they shine brightly when you read them and consider their historical significance!

 

Lesson #5- Stick with people who treat you well! Christie's treated me well 40 years ago and again last month.

 

Lesson #6- Historical paper is still unappreciated when compared to Contemporary Art, Coins, Watches, etc. So the savvy buyers should take notice...

 

...And I hope that they will also take notice on September 8th when Cowan’s holds my 7th "How History Unfolds on Paper" auction. Wes got into the auction business at the same time that Dennis Holzman and I did and for the same reasons. He is legendary now and recently said to me "Eric, Just imagine if you and I had teamed up!" I replied, "Wes you didn't need me at all!" From Historical Paper, he spread into many departments and has become famous on "Antiques Roadshow" and "History Detectives."

 

To sum this experience up I’ll simply say:  I’ve been fortunate and am grateful for this complex field.

 

Eric Caren

The Caren Archive

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Adams (Richard). <i>Watership Down,</i> FIRST EDITION, author inscription on front free end paper, folded map tipped in, original boards, dust-jacket. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Bowles (John). <i>Several Prospects of the Most…la Ville de Londres, avec des Remarques Historiques fort Succinctes, qui les Regardant,</i> 20 double page engraved plates only, of 23, 1724. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Auden (W.H.). <i>Our Hunting Fathers,</i> FIRST SEPARATE EDITION, 1 of 22 copies, COPY B OF 5 PRINTED ON NORMANDIE, original patterned wrappers, Cambridge, for Frederic Prokosch, 1935. £800 to £1200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Barrie (J. M.) & Attwell (Mabel Lucie, illustrator). <i>Peter Pan & Wendy,</i> FIRST EDITION, 12 chromolithograph plates, publisher's blue cloth, original printed dust jacket, [c.1920]; and 3 others (4). £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Bartolozzi (Francesco). Genius Calling Forth the Fine Arts to Adorn Manufactures and Commerce; Agriculture (Husbandry Aided by Arts and Commerce), glazed and framed. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> A collection of engraved caricatures, including Gillray ([James]) Tales of Wonder!, 1802; Rowlandson (Thomas) Sports, Smock Racing, 1811;Irish Jaunting Carr, 1814. £400 to £600
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Bennett (Charles H, illustrator). <i>Æsop’s Fables,</i> 1875; Buchanan (Robert). <i>Ballad Stories of the Affections,</i> [1866]; Douce (Francis), The Dance of Death, 1833. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Chinese Illustrations. A group of 6 Cantonese rice paper illustrations, depicting scenes of torture with different instruments, gouache, c.340 x 220mm, original wrapper boards preserved, [c. 1800]. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Dulac (Edmund). <i>The Queen of Romania, The Dreamer of Dreams,</i> 5 coloured plates, [1915]; and others illustrated by Edmund Dulac. £300 to £400
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Summer Books. August 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Fronth (Per). Xingu Chronicles, the portfolio, comprising 30 plates, photogravues in colours, each signed, dated and titled in pencil, each numbered 10/35, on wove paper, 790 x 600 x 60mm, 1997. £300 to £400
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> Pasternak (Boris). <i>Doctor Zhivago,</i> FIRST ENGLISH EDITION, original red publisher’s cloth, pictorial dust jacket, 4to, Collins & Harvill Press, 1958. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Aug. 22:</b> 13 sepia photographs of visitors to the Thermes Nationaux d’Aix-les-Bains, c. 150 x 105mm, c.1890 (12). £300 to £400
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000

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