• <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 95. Turing. <i>Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals</i>. Offprint. London, 1939. Robin Gandy's Copy. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 98. Zernike, Fritz. The 1953 Nobel Prize for Physics: The Invention of the Phase-Contrast Microscope. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 111. Apple 1 Computer, operational, with exceptional provenance. $400,000 to $600,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1074. Bruce, Lenny. An unreleased 16 mm film by "Count" Lewis DePasquale featuring Lenny Bruce. $7,000 to $10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1254. Hirohito. Manuscript in Japanese, "The Emperor's Monologue," transcribed by Terasaki Hidenari. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1095. Goldman. Emma. Large archive of correspondence, much of it to Warren Starr Van Valkenburgh. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 109. Wozniak and Jobs. The First Digital "Blue Box", Berkeley, 1972. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 46. Newton, Isaac. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. 1st issue. London, 1687. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 49. Newton. Autograph Manuscript in English, a portion of a draft of Newton's study on revelation. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1027. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1st edition, 1st issue. Scribners, 1925. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1042. Hemingway., Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Presentation copy, one of 15 copies. Scribners, 1940. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1215. A 48-star American Flag, flown from LCT-703, sunk on Omaha Beach, December 1944. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts. December 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> With Fine Contemporary Hand-Coloured Folding Maps Atlas: MOLL (Hermann). <i>The World Described</i>. 15,000 to 20,000 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> The Holy Grail of Early Photographic Illustrated Irish Books: HEMPHILL (William Despard). <i>Stereoscopic Illustrations of Clonmel, and the Surrounding Country</i>… 7,000 to 10,000 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> "The Nugent Manuscript Archive" including letters on 1798 rebellion In Co. 7,000 to 9,000 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts. December 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> The Greatest Irish Coloured Plate Book Original Coloured Copy: MALTON (James). <i>A Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin Described</i>. 7,000 to 9,000 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> BLAEU (Johannes). <i>Atlas Hibernia</i>, Amsterdam? c. 1662. 1,750 to <br>2,500 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> Rare Limited Edition: YEATS (W.B.). Arion Press, San Francisco. <i>Poems of W.B. Yeats.</i> 1,700 to 2,200 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts. December 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> [YEATS, W.B.]. Cradle of Genius. Original drawing, pen-and-ink and wash. 1,500 to 2,500 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> W.B. Yeats Meets James Bond? YEATS (W. B.). <i>Selected Poems, Lyrical and Narrative</i>. 1,400 to 1,600 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> Rare Unauthorized U.S. Edition of <i>Ulysses</i>: JOYCE (James). <i>Ulysses</i> - [Two World Monthly, Vol. 1 (No. 1) - vol. 3 (no.3)]. 1,200 to 1,500 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts. December 5, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> With Original Holograph Passage by the Author: HEANEY (Seamus). <i>Door Into the Dark</i>. 1,000 to 1,500 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> First American Edition: JOYCE (James). <i>Dubliners</i>, 8vo N. York (B.W. Huebsch) 1916. 600 to 800 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 5:</b> Rare American Photographs of Niagara Falls: ZYBACK (J.). Photographer, Niagara. Two large original photographs. 300 to 400 €
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy!</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Walt Whitman. Poetical manuscript from <i>Leaves of Grass</i> (1865)
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Daniel Boone.) Filson. <i>The Discovery ... of Kentucke</i> (1784)
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Edgar A. Poe. <i>Tales</i> (1845) original cloth
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy!</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Emerson. Autograph letter signed on his philosophy of poetry (1841)
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Fitzgerald. <i>This Side of Paradise</i> (1920) presentation copy
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>John Norman, <i>The American Pilot</i>, complete copy with 11 folding charts, Boston, 1810. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>John Smith, <i>New England</i>, London, 1616. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Plancius Petrus, <i>Orbis Terrarum Typus de Integro Multis in Locis Emendatus</i>, Amsterdam, 1594. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Martin Waldseemüller, <i>Tabula Terre Nove</i>, woodcut, Strasbourg, 1513. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Forlani & Zaltieri, <i>Il Disegno del Discoperto della Noua Franza</i>, Venice, 1566. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Richard Hakluyt, <i>Novus Orbis</i>, first appearance of "Virginia" on a printed map, Paris, 1587. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Pieter van den Keere, <i>Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica</i>, Amsterdam, 1608. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Abraham Ortelius, <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum</i>, Antwerp, 1584. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>George B. Goode & Samuel A. Kilbourne, <i>Game Fishes of the United States</i>, New York, 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>William Faden, <i>The Province of New Jersey</i>, London, 1777. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>James Gillray, <i>The Plumb-Pudding in Danger</i>, hand-colored etching, London, 1805. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b><br>Pierre Belon, <i>L'Histoire de la Nature des Oyseaux</i>, with woodcut illustrations, Paris, 1555. $8,000 to $12,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2009 Issue

Book Prices Down 30% Year Over Year at Auction

Pricegraph03-09

Book prices at auction have been slipping.


By Michael Stillman

Book prices at auction showed a continuing sharp decline during the first two months of 2009. The median price at auction for the period was 31% lower than for the same period a year ago. This compares to a decline of 21% for all of last year compared to 2007.

While the smaller sampling available for two months versus a year leaves a greater margin of error, there is no mistaking that there has been a very substantial decline in book prices at auction. However, the implication that prices have slipped further in 2009 is not necessarily true. Last year's 21% decline included sales from the first half of the year, when the market was still relatively strong. The decline was likely steeper in the last half of the year. The current estimated 31% drop may reflect the level of decline already in place by the last half of 2008, rather than further deterioration of the market in 2009. It will take more time to determine whether book prices are continuing to fall or have begun to bottom out.

What has been happening to prices at the bookseller level is less clear since such sales are not conducted in a visible marketplace as are auctions. However, anecdotal observation does not indicate a decrease in listing prices of anything near the 30% level. Most sellers appear to be opting for reduced sales over reduced prices. In a challenging economic environment such as the current one, sellers have three choices: (1) lower asking prices, (2) maintain asking prices but discount and bargain more aggressively, or (3) maintain current prices and wait for recovery. While it is impossible to know what kind of dealing may be going on behind the scenes, anecdotal reports we have from booksellers indicate sales are down, implying that most are holding fairly closely to past pricing.

Reports we received from sellers at the recent California Book Fair would support the belief that sales, rather than prices, are down at the bookseller level. Sales between dealers in the pre-opening period were reportedly very slow, indicating a great reluctance on the part of sellers to purchase new inventory. When sellers are selling, they need to replenish inventory. This is a sign that most dealers appear to be in a wait-and-see mode, rather than aggressively discounting in an attempt to boost sales.

What booksellers will do, or should do, in the days ahead is far less clear. Decisions will be made based on the immediacy of a dealer's need for cash and his or her belief in how long it will take for the market to recover. Those dealers in a strong financial condition may choose to wait out the storm. Those who will need greater cash flow in the months ahead may be better advised to start developing new strategies sooner rather than later. Recovery will come, but it appears almost certain that the time frame will be years, not months. Those whose survival under current conditions will be limited to months need to make adjustments now before time further erodes their financial strength. A business model that depends on a market turnaround by summer appears almost certain to be destined for failure. Even the more optimistic of economic forecasters do not see a recovery beginning until late in the year, and that does not mean prices will suddenly rebound by 30%. That simply means a slow return to growth. Other forecasters believe it will be years before real recovery comes. We do not mean to sound pessimistic, or be the bearer of bad news, but auction prices are a firm reality check for the book business. We believe the bookseller armed with realistic, even if unpleasant data, has a better chance of surviving and succeeding than one who builds a business model based on wishful thinking.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov. 28:</b> Seba, Albertus. <i>Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri.</i> Amsterdam: J. Wetsten, 1734[-1769]. €350,000–550,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov. 28:</b> Janssonius, Joannes. <i>Novus Atlas Absolutissimus</i>. Amsterdam: J Jansson, 1658 [after 1664]. €250,000–450,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, Nov. 28:</b> Goya, Francisco de. <i>[La Tauromaquia.] Treinta y tres estampas, que representan diferentes suertes y actitudes del arte de lidiar los Toros</i>. Madrid: [Rafael Esteve, 1816]. €150,000–250,000
    <b>Christie’s Online, Nov. 29 – Dec. 06:</b> Einstein, Albert. <i>On residual rays – and guilt about an old girlfriend</i>. Prague, 26 December 1911. US$10,000–15,000
    <b>Christie’s Online, Nov. 29 – Dec. 06:</b> Einstein, Albert. <i>‘What is logically simple is so difficult mathematically'</i>. Princeton, 16 August 1949. US$20,000–30,000
    <b>Christie’s New York, Dec. 5:</b> Yorktown Campaign manuscript map. ‘No 1 Carte générale de l’Isle de New York et des Environs...No 2. Reconnoissance Geometrique…’ n.p., c. 1781–1782. US$150,000–200,000
    <b>Christie’s New York, Dec. 5:</b> Le Hay, Jacques and Ferriol, Charles de (1637–1722). <i>Recueil de cent estampes représentant differentes nations du Levant</i>. Paris: Le Hay and Duchange, 1714. US$30,000–40,000
    <b>Christie’s New York, Dec. 7:</b> Cresswell, Samuel Gurney. <i>A Series of Eight Sketches … of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Investigator during the Discovery of the North-west Passage</i>. London: 1854. US$30,000–40,000.
    <b>Christie’s New York, Dec. 7:</b> Veer, Gerrit de. <i>Diarium nauticum seu vera descriptio trium navigationum admirandarum</i>. Amsterdam: Cornelius [Claesz], 1598. US$25,000–35,000
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio!</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio!</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions