• Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies</i>, Edited by John Heminger (D. 1630) and Henry Condell<br>(D. 1627). £800,000–£1,200,000
    Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published According to the True Orginal Copies.</i> The Second Impression. £180,000–£250,000
    Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published According to the True Orginal Copies. </i>The Third Impression. £300,000–£400,000.
    Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published According to the True Orginal Copies. </i> The Fourth Edition. £15,000–£20,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books.</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Isaak de Graaf, manuscript map of Java, ink & watercolor on vellum, 1743. $180,000 to $220,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Maria Sibylla Merian, <i>Histoire générale des insectes de Surinam</i>,<br>72 hand-colored plates, Paris, 1771. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> James Gillray, <i>The Plumb-pudding<br>in danger</i>, hand-colored etching, London, 1805. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books.</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Visscher, Composite atlas with 73 maps in original hand-color in full, Amsterdam, after 1716.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Mahmud Raif Efendi, <i>Cedid atlas tercümesi</i>, 25 hand-colored maps, Istanbul, 1803-1804.<br>$40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> John James Audubon, <i>The Birds of America</i>, 7 volumes, 1839-44. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books.</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b><br>A.B. Frost, <i>Shooting Pictures</i>, 12 chromolithographs, New York, 1895. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> John Senex, <i>A New General Atlas</i>,<br>33 engraved maps & town plans, London, 1721. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Elihu Barker & Mathew Carey, <i>A Map of Kentucky from Actual Survey</i>, Philadelphia, circa 1794.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. Iconic signed Darwin photograph "I like this photograph much better than any other which ..."
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Autograph Letter Signed</i>. Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> WRIGHT, WILBUR. Experiments and Observations in Soaring Flight. Journal of the Western Society of Engineers 8, no. 4 (August, 1903).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. Signed and dated Oxford 1931.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> GARDNER, ALEXANDER. Antietam Bridge, Maryland. "One of the memorable spots in the history of the war."
  • <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Thomas Lynch, Jr., Signer of the Declaration from South Carolina: Document signed in full ("Thomas Lynch Junr").
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Thomas Jefferson, letter signed as Secretary of State. ("TH: JEFFERSON").
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Thomas Jefferson, the first U.S. Naturalization Act, signed as Secretary of State.
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Miniature edition of the Emancipation Proclamation printed for distribution to Union troops.
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> General George Meade’s statement on the victory at Gettysburg, printed on the battlefield. July 4, 1863.
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Abraham Lincoln, letter signed, seeking the counsel of Navy Secretary Welles on the appropriate response to the Fort Pillow Massacre.
  • <b>Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, 8 June 2016, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 1. ARISTOTLE. 384-322 B.C.E. De animalibus [De historia animalium. De partibus animalium. De generatione animalium.] US$ 300,000-500,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 44. ARIOSTO, LUDOVICO. 1474-1533. Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse, by John Haringto[n]. [London: Richard Field, 1591.] US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 183. HARRISON, William Henry. Document Signed AS PRESIDENT ("W.H. Harrison"). US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 116. <br>ALI, MUHAMMAD. B.1942. U.S. Passport Signed ("Muhammad Ali") Twice, [Dublin, July 19, 1972].<br>US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 52. Bible In English. [Mearne, Samuel, binder.] The Holy Bible containing the bookes of the Old & New Testament. US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 130. EARHART, Amelia. 1897-1937. Archive of material on the purchase and outfitting of Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10e. US$ 15,000-20,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 85. BURTON, Virginia Lee. 1909-1968. The Little House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942. US$ 15,000-20,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 68. CAMERON (Julia Margaret) Kate Keown [No. 5 Of Series of Twelve Lifesized Heads], [1866]. <br>£30,000-50,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 98. Karl Marx. Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie... Erster Band, FIRST EDITION, 1867.<br>£80,000-120,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 111. Isaac Newton Autograph manuscript, in English, headed "The Question stated about abstaining from blood". £50,000-70,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 112. Nobel Prize for discovering isotopes in stable elements, awarded to F.W. Aston in 1922. £200,000-400,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 140. Kay Nielsen (Prince Bismarck discovering the soldier), 1913. £15,000-20,000.

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>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts <i>online</i> | May 18-26 | skinnerinc.com</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1051: Keller, Helen (1880-1968) Autograph Letter Signed and Cabinet Card, est. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1108: Washington, George (1732-1799) Military Discharge Signed, Headquarters, Newburgh, New York, 7 June 1783, est. $7,000-9,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1131: Bayes, Jessie (1876-1970) Illuminated Manuscript, <i>Six Poems from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore</i>. London, 1917, est. $15,000-17,000
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts <i>online</i> | May 18-26 | skinnerinc.com</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1144: Darwin, Charles (1809-1882) <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. London: Murray, 1859, est. $60,000-80,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1170: Fossati, Giorgio (1706-1778) <i>Raccolta di Varie Favole Delineate, ed Incise in Rame</i>. Venice: Carlo Pecora, 1744, est. $5,000-7,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1224: Nielsen, Kay (1886-1957) <i>East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Old Tales from the North</i>. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1914,<br> est. $5,000-7,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1284: Audubon, John James (1785-1851) <i>American Flamingo</i>. [from] <i>The Birds of America</i>, New York: Bien, 1860, est. $10,000-15,000

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