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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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>

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