Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2009 Issue

Two Major Sales at Christie's, New York, December 4

Christiewashletr

George Washington writes his nephew Bushrod concerning the proposed new constitution.


By Michael Stillman

Christie's in New York has two important book auctions scheduled for Friday, December 4, one a single owner sale. Along with books they will be offering manuscripts and maps at the sales.

The kick-off begins at 10:00 a.m. with The William E. Self Library Part II: Important English and American Literature. William Self began his career as an actor in 1945, but he made his mark as a television producer. Among the notable series he produced were MASH, Julia, Batman, and Lost in Space (Danger, Will Robinson!). Along the way, Self put together one of the more important collections of English and American literature in private hands. Last year, Christie's conducted Part I of the sale, a library of Dickens material. This latest sale will include 198 items from Poe, Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, Melville, Carroll, Stevenson, and Whitman, among others.

Topping the Self sale is the extremely rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's first book, Tamerlane, published in 1827. Only 12 copies are known to exist, just two in private hands. The estimate is $500,000-$700,000. A copy of Charles Dickens' The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, inscribed by Dickens to Hans Christian Andersen, is estimated at $200,000-$300,000. A couple of Charlotte Bronte items are most notable - a manuscript of her verses estimated at $50,000-$70,000, and her eloquent letter to Henry Nussey, declining his proposal of marriage, estimated at $50,000-$70,000. Writes Miss Bronte to the surprise proposal from the brother of a friend, "I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you -- but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you." Bronte and Nussey remained friendly for years despite the rejection, since, after all, she did not find him repugnant. Two later letters from Bronte to Nussey, also offered in this sale, attest to their continued cordial relationship. This auction also includes a first edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass ($80,000-$120,000), a first of Poe's The Raven and Other Poems ($100,000-$150,000) and a first of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection ($80,000-$120,000).

For those with a few bucks left after this sale, it will be followed the same afternoon by Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana. This sale contains another 259 items, the highlight being a letter from George Washington to his nephew Bushrod Washington. Christie's describes it as "the most important Washington letter to ever come to auction." This letter is dated November 9, 1787. Washington remained publicly neutral on whether the states should ratify the newly adopted Constitution. However, this letter to Bushrod, who was slated to become a delegate from Virginia, reveals his true feelings. Washington writes that the debate comes down to one basic issue, "namely -- is it best for the States to unite, or not to unite?" He comes down on the side of union. While noting that the document is not perfect, he is reassured because there is a mechanism by which the people can change it in the years ahead. Saying that he believes that there is "little doubt" that it will get the approval of at least the minimum 9 of 13 states, he asks what the others will do - "...return to our former dependence on Great Britain for their protection & support?" As to the possibility that some evil will come out of a good document, Washington makes an important observation, applicable equally to current considerations as well as the issue at hand: "...neither my reasoning, nor my experience, has yet been able to discover the propriety of preventing men from doing good, because there is a possibility of their doing evil." The General and future First President's letter is estimated to sell for $1,500,000-$2,500,000.

Other items in this sale include an unfinished novel by Vladimir Nabokov, The Original of Laura. The manuscript has been meticulously written on 138 index cards. It is estimated at $400,000-$600,000. There is a signed first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, expected to bring $200,000-$300,000. The second folio edition (1858-59) of John James Audubon's The Birds of America is estimated at $150,000-$200,000. Two other important political letters from the 1780s from Washington to his nephew Bushrod are also available, estimated at $200,000-$300,000 each. Naturally, there are many other important items offered at considerably more modest estimates.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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 Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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