Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2012 Issue

2012 In Review: Borders Liquidates, Sendak Dies, Digital Eats Print

2 scream

Munch's painting of the Scream sold for $119 million.

All time lows in popular taste including e-books

While old books soldiered on, in some cases with distinction, popular taste in new books, whatever their format, reached a new low. The trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey,” dubbed “housewife porn,” dominated all the best seller lists in both print and electronic formats. Readers apparently could not get enough of S&M lite.

Likewise, young fans and the hugely popular movie of the same name insured Hunger Games, a teen age dystopian fantasy, stayed hot. Other brands with staying power included Harry Potter titles, Oz books, and the many incarnations of James Bond. In fact the Bond franchise never looked stronger with a new movie in release and a plethora of Fleming related books, memorabilia and merchandise to stoke collectors’ fancy.

While e-books are not usually within AE’s purview, it’s important to note that the biggest success story on Kindle was Jennifer Probst’s The Marriage Bargain, a novel priced at $2.99 that was the #8 bestselling Kindle e-book of the first half of the year. The book was published in February by Entangled, a new publisher that gives its authors higher royalties (40% on cover price for digital titles).

When asked to comment on The Marriage Bargain's runaway success, Entangled publisher Liz Pelletier said, "We were confident this title would sell strong for the genre, but not this well. Sales have far exceeded our expectations.”

The author’s own web site was thrilled to report that follow up title: The Marriage Mistake reached #5 on the Barnes and Noble bestseller list. This was closely followed by her new holiday short story, The Holiday Hoax. The Marriage Trap and The Marriage Bargain trailed shortly behind – making a total of four books in the top 100.

Deaths, Law Suits, Big Sales

Among those important in the world of books who died this year were Maurice Sendak, Gore Vidal, Nora Ephron, and Carlos Fuentes to name a few. The death of tech pioneer Steve Jobs, whose i-products changed the way book content was delivered, was also widely reported.

There was plenty of legal action in 2012 to keep the lawyers busy. Among the most notable was the end to a seven year legal battle between Google and publishers over copyrights and digitization.

Through it all antiquarians did what antiquarians do - they kept looking for the good stuff where ever it could be found. Two book sales that caught the fancy of both dealers and collectors were the final disposal of the inventory of Serendipity Books in Berkeley, CA., precipitated by the death of iconic dealer Peter Howard. Even more attention went to the disposal of books owned by Texas author-bookseller Larry McMurty, whose inventory took up a whole small town. The McMurty stock went under the hammer in August. Dealers from around the country drove in to attend and reported it all sold and was hauled away in a fast and haphazard manner.

AE ads hundreds of thousands of records

Back at the AE headquarters in San Francisco publisher Bruce McKinney and son Tom added hundreds of thousand of historical and contemporary auction and dealer records to the site’s existing database. These additions made AE not only the most comprehensive source for price, bibliographic and related info extant but also the fastest growing.

AE also moved slowly into the world of libraries, archives and special collections, offering free trials to library folk who may have heard of but not used the site before.

A classic example of why AE might prove a valuable resource to libraries came from Centralia College in Washington state where a 200-year-old book sitting on a shelf unused for years the was auctioned at Christie’s in New York in June going for $110,500.


“This is simply amazing,” Dr. Jim Walton, college president said. “A book that we were going to give away will now fund a program that will provide a great benefit to our students. All because it wouldn’t fit in the box.”

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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