Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2018 Issue

June 14 at Christie's NY: The Portland Audubon and more exquisite material comes to auction

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Highlights from Christie's NY June 14 sales

The fourteenth of June marks the date of two sales at Christie’s in New York. Two sales, with different sale numbers, but truly they are one (and in fact the first sale contains just one item, lot #1, with the second sale beginning with lot #2 immediately following). The first lot, however, is such a legendary item that it deserves its own sale name. All told 213 lots will be auctioned.

 

Lot 1 of The Portland Audubon is the single lot sale of “the exceptional Duke of Portland set of Audubon’s masterpiece - among the finest copies in private hands of this icon of American art, and the finest color-plate book ever produced.” This is the big shebang—the four volume, double-elephant folio edition of The Birds of America; from Original Drawings, printed in London between 1827 and 1838. Christie’s provides a lengthy read that is well worth going through in full. Here’s a paragraph on this specifically massive edition:

 

The towering format of this work was dictated by Audubon's long-standing determination that each species be shown life-size, from the flamingo down to the hummingbird – even if the former had to curve its neck in an elegant arabesque. Along the way, Audubon was sometimes encouraged to scale down his drawings for print, but he never deviated. His commitment to verisimilitude was no mere gimmickry but grounded in a profound connection with the natural world inseparable from his work. "It was Audubon's unprecedented understanding of Nature that gave eternal colour to his wilderness palette and placed in his hands a brush with eternity" (Lank, p.19). This vision came with technical complications, not least because Audubon required a quality of engraving that few had the skill to deliver. In Edinburgh, the printer and zoologist, Patrick Neill, a fellow member of the Wernerian Society, directed Audubon to William Home Lizars (1788-1859), "the best engraver in the city," who was then working for two of Britain's foremost ornithologists: Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) and William Jardine (1800-1874). Upon seeing Audubon's drawings, Lizars exclaimed "My God, I never saw anything like this before!" (quoted in Rhodes I, p. 271); he put aside Selby's commission and accepted Audubon's herculean challenge. The relationship with Lizars lasted for the first two parts (i.e. ten plates), after which a strike by Lizars' colorists caused Audubon to look for another engraver. The setback proved to be a blessing. In London Audubon met Robert Havell Jr, a "brilliant printmaker" with "an instinctive understanding of Audubon's aesthetic. Havell, a master of translation, would prove to be his ideal collaborator... The genius of Havell's burin and his sophisticated use of aquatint were unmatched" (Olson, p.30). Havell was a gifted artist in his own right, whose understanding of the artistry as well as the technology was of immense benefit to Audubon. Havell often improved Audubon's compositions; "fully a third of the plates contained some Havell elements not found in the original watercolours" (Lank, p.18). The quality of Havell's engravings mark "an unprecedented achievement in printmaking" (Olson, p.30). After Havell's first prints had come off the press, Audubon took a set to Lizars who "admired them much; called his workmen, and observed to them that the London artists beat them completely" (Audubon, quoted in Rhodes I, p.299). 

 

Complete double-elephant folio Audubons rarely come to the rooms, and when one does, it’s a big deal. Christie’s has estimated the Portland copy at $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.

The 212 lots following the Portland Audubon that make up Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana are nothing to scoff at either. More than ten lots carry high estimates of $50,000 or higher. Serious collectors have had this sale on their radars since its announcement.

 

Perhaps the aforementioned Audubon is out of your price range? The first lot of the sale is the first edition of Aububon’s folio The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Estimated $200,000 to $300,000, this Audubon is still quite the premium item, and who knows, maybe quadrupeds are more your fancy than birds…

 

The high estimate of the sale, though, goes to an illuminated manuscript atlas, made in Venice in 1468. This is Grazioso Benincasa’s Portolan Atlas, signed and dated by Benincasa. Christie’s describes the lot as “a unique collection of maps delineating 3,500 miles of the Atlantic seaboard, from Cabo Santa Anna (Manna Point), Sierra Leone to the northern tip of Scotland.” Benincasa’s work is estimated $1,200,000 to $1,800,000 as lot 15.

 

One final highlight of the sale will tug at the heartstrings of any American revolution collector. Lot 86 is one of six known proof copies on paper of William Stone’s facsimile of the original Declaration of Independence, printed in honor of the 50thanniversary of the Declaration. $200,000 to $300,000 is the estimate for this famous work.

 

Christie’s sales of The Portland Audubon and Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana will take place on June 14, 2018 at 2pm eastern time in New York. Click here to browse the sale and learn more.

 

 

 

 

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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