Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

December to be a Busy Month for the Auctions

The first printing of the Star Spangled Banner (courtesy of Christie's).


By Michael Stillman

The first three weeks of December will be one of the busiest times we have seen in a while for the world of book and ephemera auctions. Then, the hammers will fall silent for the year. Everyone will go home for the holidays and enjoy the spoils of their bidding, awaiting a more restrained pace which will come with the beginning of the new year.

December will offer some fabulous auctions with a couple of spectacular pieces. Elsewhere on this site, Americana Exchange founder Bruce McKinney writes about his sale on December 2 at Bonham's, New York - The American Experience: 1630-1890. This auction has generated great interest not just because it is one of the largest Americana auctions in years, but because of the generally unheard of terms and transparency Mr. McKinney has offered. There are no reserves, even for items estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He has listed when, where, and for what price he purchased his books, and credit has been offered for qualifying buyers.

However, this will not be the only auction on December 2. Down the street at Christie's, Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte will be up for sale. Mr. Tufte, in his professional career, writing and collecting, has crossed between the boundaries of science and art. He has written and taught about subjects such as statistics, while also being a sculptor. His varied interests are reflected in his collection, which includes such items as Galileo's Siderius nuncios magna… (first edition, 1610) estimated at $600,000 - $800,000.

The following day, Christie's New York will be at it again with a sale Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana featuring a very special American icon. It is a copy of the rare first edition of the words and music to The Star Spangled Banner. It is one of only 11 known copies and the only one remaining in private hands. The story of America's national anthem is well known. Francis Scott Key witnessed the British bombing of Fort McHenry through a night-long battle during the War of 1812, only to fine the American flag still flying over the fort in the dawn's early light. The Americans had held back the British. Key penned his lyrics on the back of a letter that morning, and his lyrics, set to the tune of an old British drinking song, quickly became popular. Baltimore music publisher Thomas Carr took advantage of this popularity by printing this edition, a rush job that left out Key's name, and described it as "A Pariotic Song." It was not until 1931 that Key's song was finally recognized as the national anthem. This copy of the sheet music was bound up in an album of music owned by Mary Barnitz of York, Pennsylvania. She died in 1886 and its subsequent ownership is unknown. Her now tattered sheet music album was purchased at a small Pennsylvania auction by the current owner, who was surprised to find a first edition Star Spangled Banner within. Christie's has estimated its price at $200,000 - $300,00.

December 7th will see the auction of the spectacular Hesketh collection at Sotheby's in London. Lord Hesketh built his collection between the 1930s and his death in 1955, but the collection remained intact for another half a century as Lady Hesketh died only a few years ago. Hesketh did not collect by subject, but rather, bought the very best books of any sort he could find. Among the amazing items in this collection are a first, folio edition of Audubon's Birds of America (estimated approximately $6,250,000 - $9,400,000 in U.S. dollars) and a Shakespeare First Folio (estimated $1,550,000 - $2,350,000). Hesketh not only collected the most important works but the finest copies as well.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: SIGNED. LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, photo-postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.

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