Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2009 Issue

Book Auctions in the Bay Area

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PBA has a strong internet presence


Do you think that life is complex? Lot 1082 may provide clarity. It's the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, one of the original run of 1,000 copies printed in Paris. This is the book that everyone recommends and no one reads. To warm up to the subject first give yourself Richard Ellman's biography of the master - James Joyce. It is an oldish book [printed in 1959] but a spectacular account after which you will want the first edition of Joyce's masterpiece. It's estimated $20,000 to $30,000.

For photography collectors there are 26 early photographs. They begin at 1161 and run intermittently through to 1199. Two are by Eadweard Muybridge, one by Frederick Starr and more than 20 by Carleton Watkins. The subject is nature.

The PBA sale on Thursday February 19th offers some interesting material as well and resolves the age-old question "what happened to the title page?" We'll start by answering this question. Anyone who spends time around old books runs into copies that lack title pages. Have you ever wondered where they went? Lot 57 is a collection of approximately 330 engraved title-pages, dedication leaves, etc. Edward Scissorhands' great, great, great grandfather it turns out was a perverse collector. Well, we know that some people these days cut out maps. Four hundred years ago it was title pages. For an estimated $1,000 to $1,500 you can have hundreds of old guilt-free examples.

If you would like a second copy of Ulysses lot 91 is the Limited Editions Club edition. It was printed in 1935, illustrated, and signed by Henri Matisse. It will still be a difficult book to understand but this one has pictures.

You can drink the 100 year old cognac or sip the first pressing of the grape. Among books "A Confederacy of Dunces," first printed in 1980, although quite new, is already a classic of perverse wisdom. You can find a reader's copy for a few bucks. The very first pressing is estimated $2,000 to $3,000. Read the $2 copy for pleasure. If it connects then buy the "is it really a first edition" copy. It is and it's lot 141.

Lot 153 is another Pulitzer prize winner: A Streetcar Named Desire. A copy of the first edition, first state is also estimated $2,000 to $3,000. It's a chance to connect with your inner Blanche, Mitch or both.

If the economic downturn, swoon and collapse has you in the mood for something darker consider lot 28, The Memoir of Robert Blincoe, An Orphan Boy, Sent from the Workhouse of St. Pancras, London, at Seven Years of Age. This opaque story predates Upton Sinclair's The Jungle [1906] by 84 years but tells a similarly grim tale.

So there you have it, an amuse bouche to encourage you to click the links at the end of this article to peruse the full catalogues of these sales. The book world is sitting on the edge of their collective chairs as a world of Robert Blincoes ponder their fate. Are we all going to the workhouse?

These auction houses have pared the reserves. They have prepared first-rate catalogues. They will be courteous and answer every question and have only one in return. Will you stay the course and be a bidder? These two sales make it worth your while to venture in.

Bonhams & Butterfields February 15th.

Pacific Book Auctions February 19th.

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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