Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2018 Issue

On 14 June Christie's to auction the Portland Audubon


What's to come

Christie's recently announced it will be selling the Portland copy of Audubon’s double elephant folio Birds of America that was published 1827-1838.  This same set was sold in 2012 and returns to the rooms for another rendezvous with history, fate, money and the auctioneer’s hammer.  It will encourage comparisons and may be a bellwether for a market that is skewing both high and low.  The overall market has been in a soft decline while the best material has been rising.  Audubon is the best of the best.  The estimate will be $8-12 million and the proceeds go to benefit charitable conservation initiates


In an era where the biggest do best 2018 appears to be on track to be a major year for the world of rare and important books and this set may recalibrate valuation.


For the collector or institution that wants to begin their consideration here is what Christie's had to say six years ago.  It’s the same set, the only difference six years.




AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). The Birds of America; from Original Drawings. London: Published by the Author, 1827-1838.

4 volumes, "double-elephant" broadsheets (979/975 x 650/632 mm). Engraved title-page in each volume and 435 hand-colored, etched and aquatint plates, by William H. Lizars (Edinburgh), Robert Havell, Sr. and Robert Havell, Jr. (London), after Audubon's original life-size watercolor drawings, on J. Whatman and J. Whatman Turkey Mill paper with watermarks dated 1827-1838 (see Appendix B for watermarks on the individual sheets in this set).

First state of the title in volume I, containing 13 lines (before the addition of two extra lines listing Audubon's memberships to learned societies and without volume number). The plates in this set are arranged in order of publication (not by families) and numbered I-X, 11-14, XV, 16-100, CI-CCCCXXXV. Thus, most of the first 100 plates (Vol. I) are early states with Arabic numbering. All of the first ten plates are engraved by William Home Lizars alone, before retouching by R. Havell, Jr. For a comparison of the states of the legends on the first ten plates in this copy with Waldemar Fries' listing of the variants, in his landmark monograph on the double elephant folio, see Appendix A.

Two paper stocks were used throughout the production, both bearing the name of the English paper-maker James Whatman. William Balston, the apprentice and successor of the younger James Whatman, shared the rights to the old Whatman company and used the watermark "J Whatman"; the Hollingsworth family had the rights to the watermark "J Whatman Turkey Mill." The sheet size of the paper is known as "double elephant," measuring 39 x 29 inches, approximately the same size of the drawing paper that bears the same name.


A fine copy in excellent condition, with fresh, vibrant colors. Minor defects include: some occasional finger-soiling; some occasional pale show-through from offset of succeeding plates; a few plates with moderate surface bloom or bloom-spots; occasional light discoloration, foxing or spotting; the larger plates with a few instances of plate numbers, part numbers and parts of captions being obscured by the binding, shaved or cropped; a few creases, some extending beyond the platemark; some minor tears, most repaired, chiefly marginal, a few extending within the platemark.


Size: 993 x 655 mm (39 1/8 x 25 inches). Full contemporary English crimson morocco, richly gilt, covers paneled a wide decorative roll-tooled outer border surrounding a central panel with a roll-tooled border, a stylized scallop corner-piece built up of smaller tools at each outer corner of central panel, spines in nine compartments with eight double-raised bands, two with onlaid green morocco lettering pieces, the others with a repeated richly gilt panel, board edges and turn-ins elaborately gilt, marbled paper pastedowns and free endpapers, blank flyleaves watermarked "J. Whatman 1838," stamp-signed "J. Mackenzie" on free endpapers of plate volumes (Vol. 3 with a tiny stain on fore-edge, some slight areas of darker discoloration partially due to orientation of the leather hides, some minor surface wear and abrasions skillfully restored and refurbished by James & Stuart Brockman Ltd.); plate volumes in four velvet-lined quarter leather buckram over wooden board folding boxes.

John Mackenzie (1788-ca 1850) is believed to have apprenticed in Frederich Leberecht Staggemeier's shop in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Mackenzie's independent business flourished in the second quarter of the century, during which time he held the office of bookbinder to both King George IV and King William IV. He is noted for his use of hard-grain morocco, most prominently on the natural history and color-plate books found in the Broxbourne and Grenville libraries. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <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>
  • <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

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