Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2005 Issue

At Christies Fantasy takes Flight

Sapel

Audubon's American White Pelican


By Bruce McKinney

If we could close our eyes and wake up with one printed item in the attic, closet or under the Christmas tree it might well be the eight volume Audubon elephant folio "The Birds of America; from Original Drawings" and printed in parts between 1827 and 1838. This monumental set includes "435 hand-colored, etched and aquatinted 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." Recently someone paid $20 million to go into space on a Russian rocket. At Christies in New York on December 15th, for an estimated $5 to 7 million, you can go into history with a permanent place in the milky way of printed works. This is the far better deal.

This set is offered by one of the 85 original subscribers, The Providence Athenaeum of Providence, Rhode Island. Within the Athenaeum there has been disagreement among board members about the propriety of selling this landmark of printing. As the set now moves to the auction block the advocates for selling await the outcome having already won the house debate. The Athenaeum plans to use the proceeds to buttress its reserves and make needed improvements. The sale is further complicated by condition issues which, while virtually every book has them, are particularly important in establishing value in books of prints. Bidders will do well to seek the advice of one of the principal experts in the print field for an assessment of condition. Four are listed at the end of this article.

The history and condition of the set is extensively described, the single-owner history a rare accompaniment to an exceedingly rare and important set. I quote.

"The Providence Athenaeum's copy of Audubon's Birds of America was ordered unbound as loose sheets for exhibition purposes, through which the Athenaeum hoped to recuperate some [if not all] of the daunting subscription costs for the work. In 1847, the complete set of loose plates was bound in four volumes by the New York binder James Sinew at a cost of $60. In 1929, each plate was linen backed and the plates were rebound into eight volumes by F.J. Barnard & Co. of Boston at a cost of $1,208 [more than the original subscription cost].

The conservation project was extremely successful and apart from the slight discoloration at edge extremes [predominantly in Vol. 1] and some small abraded areas on some sheet versos, the linen-backing was imperceptibly removed from the plates...."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions