Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2008 Issue

Announcing The AE Top 500 Prices at Auction for 2007

Magnasale

Sotheby's auctions a Magna Carta (photo courtesy of Sotheby's).


By Michael Stillman

With the close of another year, it is time to look back at the highest priced books and related ephemera at auction last year. We have scoured the results at all of the major auction houses and a great many smaller ones to come up with the AE 500 top prices at auction for 2007.

Five items made it into the million-dollar category in 2007, down from seven the previous year. However, at the top, number one exceeded last year's top price of just over $5 million by fourfold. Particularly interesting was the price at the bottom of the list -- number 500. That figure was $72,000, almost a 20% increase from the $60,192 price of number 500 in 2006. That is a good sign that prices remain very strong at the top end of the book market.

Before running down the top 10, we will mention a few of the other interesting items which made it into the AE 500. A link to the complete Top 500 can be found at the end of this list.

Among those tied at #500 were a first edition King James Bible, the first printing of a portion of the Book of Mormon in the Reflector newspaper, and a Religious Discourse Delivered in the Synagogue in this City [New York]...26th November, 1789, supporting George Washington's call for a day of thanksgiving. Equal opportunity is provided all faiths. $72,000.

At 463 is a portrait of a very young (circa 1858) John D. Rockefeller, when he was working as a bookkeeper in Cleveland, before striking out on his own in the oil business. $77,350. Number 462 is a huge collection of 550 manuscript documents from the Bernard family of Louisiana from 1780-1880. The family patriarch first came to America to engage in the slave trade, and the next generations used slaves to operate their lumber mill as well as perform domestic duties. $77,675.

At 284 is a copy of the Shakespeare Second Folio, probably the only privately held one in Australia, though it made it there through the famed American bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1935. $128,150. Number 243 is an archive of items, including a lock of hair, from South American revolutionary Che Guevara, from the CIA agent who buried him. $119,500. For those who prefer Yankee imperialists, number 235 is a dual signed photograph of New York Yankee greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. $120,000.

Number 152 is one of only two manuscript letters from William Henry Harrison as President known to exist. There are so few because he died a month into office. $167,300. Tied at 142 are a protested lack of personal ambition in a letter by Oliver Cromwell to his son's father-in-law and an autographed letter from Calvin concerning an attempted suicide. $171,444. Number 118 is something of a pricing standard for Americana -- a first edition "Lewis and Clark" -- and it bodes well. $193,000. Another copy, number 72, sold for $288,000. Number 43 is Navigator Theodore Van Kirk's log from the Enola Gay as they flew over and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. $358,500.

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 Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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