Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2018 Issue

AbeBook Lists Their Top 10 Most Expensive Items for 2017

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Salvador Dali's even weirder take on Rabelais' images.

"I am" seem to be the magic words for the AbeBooks annual Top 10. Last year, it was "Sam I am," this year "I think, therefore I am." Who knew Dr. Seuss and Rene Descartes had so much in common? We don't know how many books are sold on AbeBooks' website each year, but it is many millions. Most are inexpensive, reading or studying copies. However, some of what you will find there are collectible, expensive volumes, for a following of serious book and paper collectors who inhabit their virtual stores. Here are what the most serious, or at least those with the largest budgets, bought last year. These are the ten highest prices reached among the millions of books sold on the AbeBooks website during 2017.

 

10. Principia Philosophiae + Specimina Philosophiae, by Rene Descartes. First edition of Descartes' major work on physics and philosophy. Source of the the familiar quote, "I think, therefore I am." $14,535.

 

9. Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien. First editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. $14,546.

 

8. Ueber die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde. Ein philosophische Abhandlung, by Arthur Schopenhauer. This translates to "On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. A Philosophical Dissertation," which probably doesn't tell English speakers much more than does the title in German. Schopenhauer in the years ahead developed many followers, but when this first edition was printed in 1813 in just 500 copies, most still had to be trashed for want of sales. $15,000.

 

7. Quadragesimale Aureum, by Leonardo de Utino. Forty-two sermons by de Utino, but the book is probably more notable for its early date than its sermons – 1471. $16,016.

 

6. Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel, by Salvador Dali. This is Dali's 1973 adaptation of Francois Rabelais' illustrations of seriously grotesque monsters from his 1565 book. $16,840.

 

5. Les Passions de l'Ame, by Rene Descartes. Descartes is back again, this time looking at the connection between the soul and body. $17,500.

 

4. Speculum Historiale, by Vincent of Beauvais. There are not so many titles in English this year. This was something of an encyclopedia for its time, the thirteenth century. That was when it was written by Dominican Friar Vincent of Beauvais, but this edition was published in 1473. $18,900.

 

3. A Voyage Round Great Britain, Undertaken in the Summer of the Year 1813, and Commencing from the Land's-End, Cornwall, by Richard Ayton & William Daniell. Eight volume work, noted for its engravings of the British coastline. $19,300.

 

2. Warhol vs Basquiat Paintings Exhibition Poster. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat are dressed and gloved as boxers preparing for a fight. However, what was really happening is they were promoting a joint exhibition by the painters who collaborated in 1984-85, in time for this fall 1985 exhibition in New York. The poster is signed by both artists. $20,700.

 

1. Nine Stories, by J. D. Salinger. Little Brown & Company's only file copy of Salinger's second work, with a penciled word count calculation. This was before there were computer word counters. Someone must have done this by hand (or eye). For the record, it says 61,823. $22,500.

 

The complete AbeBooks Top 20 for 2017 and more can be found at this link: www.abebooks.com/collectibles/most-expensive-sales/2017/.

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 Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <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. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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