Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

December to be a Busy Month for the Auctions

Starspangled

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

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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