• <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>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> ACCADEMIA ERCOLANENSE DI ARCHEOLOGIA. <i>Ornati delle Pareti</i>, Naples 1796. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> AMERICAS. <i>Il Gazzettiere Americano…</i>, Livorno, 1763. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> BARROW, John. <i>Travels in China…</i>, London, 1804. £600 to £800
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> BENOIST, Felix. <i>Album de L'Ile de Jersey</i>…, Paris & Nantes, 1870. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> GAIL, Wilhelm. <i>Erinnerungen aus Spanien,</i> Munchen, [ca. 1837]. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> HANCARVILLE, Pierre d'. <i>Recherches sur l'origine…,</i> London, Appleyard, 1785. £1,5000 to £2,000
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> HULLEY, T. <i>Six Views of Cheltenham.</i> London, R. Ackerman, 1813. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> JEFFERSON, Thomas. <i>Notes on the state of Virginia</i>…, London, 1787. £12,000 to £18,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> LEWIS, John F. <i>Lewis's illustrations of Constantinople…,</i> London, McLean, 1837. £3,000 to £4,000
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> MARQUARD, Johann. <i>Tractatus politico-juridicus,</i> Frankfurt, 1662. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> MAUND, Benjamin. <i>The botanic garden,</i> London, 1825-42. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> Willughby, Francis; John Ray (ed.). <i>Ornithologiæ libri tres</i>. London, John Martyn, 1676. £1,500 to £2,000
  • <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Lewis, Meriwether, and William Clark. <i>History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, To the Sources of the Missouri…</i> 1814, first edition. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Poe, Edgar Allan. <i>Tales.</i> New York: Wiley And Putnam, 1845. First edition, first printing, first issue. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Dürer, Albrecht, and Johann Stabius. [Map of the World as a Sphere.] [Vienna,] 1781 (From Woodblocks Cut In 1515). $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Ferdinand, Franz — Lala Deen Dayal [Photographer]. VISIT OF H.I. & H.R. THE ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND OF AUSTRIA ESTE TO HYDERABAD (DECCAN), JANUARY 1893. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Manuscript Letter Signed ("Yours Truly A. Lincoln") as Sixteenth President to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles Regarding William Johnson. $200,000 to $300,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2009 Issue

Where Goes the Collectible Book?

Christiecurtisindians

Edward Curtis' North American Indian did not sell until after the auction.


By Michael Stillman

A recent unsold auction lot is something of a microcosm of various challenges facing the book trade today. It was a single item, though not an ordinary book. It was a set of Edward Curtis' The North American Indian, consisting of 20 volumes of photographs and text captured by Curtis in the early 20th century. J. Pierpont Morgan bankrolled the project; Theodore Roosevelt supplied the introduction. After years of preparation, the first volume appeared in 1907. The last did not make it to print until 1930, long after Morgan and Roosevelt died. It is a wonderful set.

Despite the great support and investment, Curtis was only able to obtain 222 subscribers, and but 272 sets were produced. One of those subscribers was Lammot Du Pont II, of the giant chemical company that bears his name. He gave his set to the Wilmington Institute Library. Last spring, the library decided to put this work and 14 N.C. Wyeth paintings produced for a 1920 edition of Robinson Crusoe up for sale at Christie's auction. The Wyeth paintings were purchased directly from the artist by the library in 1922 to hang on the walls of their reading rooms. The Curtis auction was held on October 8, while the Wyeth items will be sold on December 2. According to an earlier news release from Christie's, the proceeds were to be used to "support the Library’s physical plant and endowment."

Christie's put an estimate range of $700,000 to $900,000 on the Curtis set. When bids were received, the highest offered was $600,000. The bidding was closed with the books unsold. However, an offer was accepted immediately after the sale for $775,000. While that may sound higher than the minimum estimate, it would include commissions. The Wilmington Library evidently received somewhat less than the minimum estimate. A spokesperson for the library expressed some disappointment, at least at the initial results, but relayed Christie's confidence that the Wyeths would do well, describing the artwork as belonging to a completely different market. Christie's earlier estimated in excess of $3.8 million for the Wyeth paintings, possibly $5 million.

This sale raises a number of issues of great concern to the book world today, including some very tender subjects. The issue of libraries deaccessioning important works is particularly controversial. The circumstances here make it even tougher, the Curtis having been gifted to the library by a collector with strong Delaware ties, and the funds being used not to expand the collection but to repair the physical plant. We will not go into this issue further because it is discussed at length in the article More Than Meets the Eye in this month's issue of AE Monthly.

The other major issue raised by this sale is the value and collectibility of books in these changing times. The results for the Curtis were mildly disappointing, yet the sellers remain unconcerned as to how the Wyeth paintings will do. Art remains strong, even as books struggle. At the same sale, a 1969 print of a 1955 photograph by Robert Frank, Fish Kill, New York, sold for $170,500, more than doubling the midpoint of its estimate range of $75,000. I grew up near Fishkill, and it's a nice place, but... That's somewhat facetious, as the photograph is of a motorcycle rider, not Fishkill, though presumably it was taken in Fishkill, but the point is that art is trumping text these days by a wide margin. The Curtis will always do fine as it is a truly important book, and it is filled with photographs that are themselves every bit the artistic equal of Frank's photograph (in my opinion, but please don't tear them out of the book to hang on a wall). Still, the relative weakness of a book, even one that is filled with artistic photographs, compared to one photograph easily mounted on a wall, is notable. Books that are less artistic, comprised primarily or entirely of text, will face an even more challenging environment.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books.<br>July 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> The Breviary of Marie (1344-1404), Duchess of Bar, Daughter of Bonne of Luxembourg and King John II (the Good) of France, Franciscan Use, in Latin with a few rubrics in French [France (Paris), c.1360]. £500,000 to £700,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew’s Gospel, in Greek [Byzantine Empire (Constantinople), late 9th century]. £200,000 to £300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Bible, with prologues and interpretations of Hebrew Names, in Latin [France (Paris), c.1250]. £80,000 to £120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books.<br>July 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Euclides. Elementa Geometriae [Translated by Adelardus Bathoniensis, Edited by Johannes Campanus]. Vicenza: Leonardus Achates de Basilea and Guilielmus de Papia, [13 May Or 20 June] 1491. £40,000 to £60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis. Single Leaf from a Block Book [Schreiber's Edition III]. [The Netherlands, C. 1465-1470]. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Opera Philosophica. Epistolae [Edited by Blasius Romerus]. Treviso: Bernardus De Colonia, 1478. £20,000 to £30,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions