Devon Gray to take Responsibility for Books and Manuscripts at Skinners

- by Bruce E. McKinney

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Devon Gray

Devon Gray has been appointed Director and Department Head of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Skinner’s in Boston.  She replaces Stuart Whitehurst who has retired.  The firm, founded by Robert Skinner almost fifty years ago, conducts over sixty auctions a year across a variety of disciplines.  Books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera are the focus of a single sale each November and are also included in monthly discovery sales.  In years past the firm held two annual specialist sales in the category and it is Ms. Gray’s aim to do so and more in the future.

The timing is good for the firm to be refocusing on the works on paper category, as there has been a pronounced shift from listing sites where material has been slow to sell to the rooms where on an average week 70% changes hands at each event.  For Skinners it’s an opportunity.

The firm specializes in estate sales of all types that often include important and collectible materials to be set aside for the specialist sale each November, a sale timed to coincide with the ABAA’s Boston Book Fair.  In recent year important items have been sold and achieved significant prices.

In 2010 a previously undiscovered broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence was sold on November 14th for $693,500.  In 2004 a rare John Wilkes Booth letter brought $79,900. 

Ms. Gray joins Skinner after more than two decades as co-owner and co-founder of James and Devon Gray Booksellers in Harvard Square.  Her expertise is in early books.  She has also been a bookbinder and is the owner of the Larksfoot Bindery in Princeton, Massachusetts.  She is married to James Gray of Cambridge, is the granddaughter of Roy Featherstone of Milton, New York and continues his interest in books and their history.

In taking responsibility for books at Skinner’s she joins a storied line of auctioneers and auction houses in New England that have held high their wares in pursuit of fair bids.  Her piece of it is the identification and description of the saleable.