• <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>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Euclid, <i>Elementa geometriae,</i> first edition, Venice, 1482. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks,</i> first edition, London, 1704. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Jean-Baptiste du Halde, S.J., <i>Description... de l'Empire de la Chine,</i> first edition, Paris, 1735. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Werner Rolewinck, <i>Dat boek dat men hiet Fasciculus temporum,</i> first edition in Dutch, Utrecht, 1480. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Eckenstein and Lorria, <i>The Alpine Portfolio,</i> first edition, London, 1889. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Johann Theodor & Johann Israel de Bry, <i>Pars quarta Indiae orientalis,</i> first edition, Frankfurt am Main, 1601. $1,500 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Charles Darwin, <i>The Descent of Man,</i> first edition, London, 1871. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Jonathan Swift, <i>Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World,</i> first edition, London, 1726. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Rodrigo Zamorano, <i>Compendio del Arte de Navegar,</i> Seville, 1588. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>William Shakespeare, <i>A Winters Tale,</i> first edition, London, 1623. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Pedro de Medina, <i>L'Arte del Navegar,</i> first edition in Italian, Venice, 1554. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Hans Meyer, <i>An Account of The First Ascent of Kilimanjaro,</i> first edition in English, London, 1891. $1,500 to $2,500.

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>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN WEST.), Watkins, Taber, Savage, and others. <i>Magnificent Album of Mammoth Photographs of the American West, with other subjects various,</i> ca. 1865-1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>The Meaning of Relativity,</i> signed by Einstein. London: Methuen, 1922
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CARTER, SUSANNAH. <i>The Frugal Housewife</i> (1772) 2d cookbook printed in America.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies.</i> The second impression. London: by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, 1632
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (BROOKLYN). <i>An Act to Incorporate and Vest Certain Powers in the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Village of Brooklyn, in the County of Kings.</i> Brooklyn: Printed by A. Spooner, 1816
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> PAINE, THOMAS. <i>Common Sense</i> (1776) first edition sheets.
  • <b>Sotheby’s Paris: The Hunting Library of the Counts du Verne. 5 October.</b> The Largest Collection of Hunting and Falconry To Appear on the Market for the Last Thirty Years.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Jacques du Fouilloux. <i>La Vénerie</i>. Poitiers, 1561. Est. €100.000 – 150.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Gaston Phébus. <i>Déduits de la chasse des bestes sauvaiges et des oyseaux de proye</i>. Paris, circa 1507. Est. €150.000 – 200.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Pierre et François de Gommer. <i>L’Autoursserie</i>. Chaalons, 1594. Est. €30.000 – 50.000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris: The Hunting Library of the Counts du Verne. 5 October. The Largest Collection of Hunting and Falconry To Appear on the Market for the Last Thirty Years.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Pierre Landry. <i>Quatre scènes de chasse à courre.</i> Paris, circa 1680. Est. €2.000 – 3.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Conte Henri de Vibraye - Baron Karl Reille. <i>La chasse à courre.</i> Paris, 1951. Est. €3.000 – 5.000
    <b>Sotheby's Paris Oct. 5:</b> Duc de Brissac - Paul Jouve. <i>Chasse.</i> Paris, 1956. Est. €30.000 – 50.000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions