Auction Update Review

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Christmas Comes Early at Sotheby's

Twenty-Seven Sales Archived

This past week was one of those moments when the sun broke through in the auction rooms on what have recently been some cloudy days in the books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera fields. The volume of sales reported were exceptional thanks in substantial part to Sotheby's both in the New York and London who combined for a breathtaking $40.8 million. The best still sells and this past week Sotheby's was the best at selling the best. Here is what they sold:

On December 7th in London they offered "Magnificent Books, Manuscripts and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick 2nd Lord Hesketh." Ninety-one lots including a complete double folio first edition of James Audubon's Birds sold for $ 9.5 million hammer and $11.5 million all in. William Shakespeare, in the same sale, was sitting in the cheap seats comparatively. A copy of his first folio brought $2.36 million. About this he might say

"Oft expectation fails and most oft there Where most it promises, and oft it hits Where hope is coldest and despair most fits."

But he and we will persevere.

In New York, on the 10th, Sotheby's then hit back to back to back home runs with Custer's last flag, $2.2 million, the Kennedy-Lincoln copy of the Emancipation Proclamation for $3.77 million, and James Naismith's Founding Rules of Basketball for $4.33 - all offered along with a books and manuscripts sale that raised another $2.23 million. The world may not be sure what to do with $4,000 books but million dollar items seem quite secure.

The rest of the field chipped in $13 million, itself a robust number. Nine of the 27 sales archived this week achieved at least 100% of their aggregate high estimates. That the Hesketh sale achieved 127% of the high estimate is extraordinary. The market set the prices and set them high.

For all the sales archived this week 6,166 lots were offered and 4,131 sold for a 67% success rate. This suggests that while the market is demanding for the precious, perfect and important it is decidedly less interested in things that just a few years ago were considered quite good. Your tiaras are in fashion, your quartz is not.

Bruce McKinney
AE

  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…