• <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> John Richard, sketchbook kept by soldier-artist during last months of Civil War, 55 drawings, 1865. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Guest register for Catskill Mountain House, with signatures of many notable guests, 1839-43, 1846-52. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Manuscript confirmation of arms & nobility, Esquivel y Vargas family, Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico, 1731. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Elizabeth Shoumatoff, 3 watercolor studies for famous “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR, 1945. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b><br><i>Sa Ga Yean Qua Rash Tow, Coning Vande Maquas alias Coning Brant,</i> engraving by Pieter Schenck, Netherlands, c.1710s. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Stamp from the Stamp Act of 1765, embossed, “II Shillings VI Pence.” $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b><br><i>The Law of God,</i> five volumes, first edition, first Jewish translation of the Pentateuch into English, 1845-46. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Diary of James W. Bentley, a cavalry officer protecting settlers on the Overland Trail, 1865. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Pedro de Arenas, <i>Vocabulario manual de las lenguas castellana y mexicana,</i> complete first edition, Mexico, 1611. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <center><b>Leland Little Auctions<br>The Important Fall Auction<br>September 19, 2020</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 19:</b> <i>Bull City Summer Portfolio</i> (Complete Portfolio of 15 Photographs by Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas, and Hiroshi Watanabe). $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 19:</b> Krishna Reddy (Indian, 1925-2018), <i>Three Graces.</i> Mixed color intaglio print on paper, 1958, pencil signed. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 19:</b> after Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963), <i>Hommage à J. S. Bach.</i> Etching and aquatint in colors, 1950, pencil signed and numbered 277/300. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <center><b>Leland Little Auctions<br>The Important Fall Auction<br>September 19, 2020</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 19:</b> Heller, Joseph. <i>Catch-22,</i> First Edition (New York Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1961). $500 to $1,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 19:</b> Rey, Margaret & H. A. <i>Curious George Goes to the Hospital,</i> First Edition. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966). $500 to $1,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 19:</b> Large 1754 Map of St. Croix, Dutch West Indies by Jens Michelsen Beck. Sheet 21.25 x 31.75 in.; DOA 31.25 x 41.25 in. $300 to $600.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> DARWIN, Charles Robert. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.</i> London: W. Clowes and Sons for John Murray, 1859. [With] autograph note signed. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> [FINE PRESS & LIVRE D'ARTISTE]. -- [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. CHAUCER, Geoffrey. <i>The Works ... now newly imprinted.</i> Edited by F.S. Ellis. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> LAWRENCE, Thomas Edward. <i>Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph.</i> [London: Privately Printed], 1926. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Mr. William Shakespear's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies…</i> London, Printed for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, R. Chiswell, and R. Bentley, 1685. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>The Birds of America…</i> [1839-] 1840-1844. -- AUDUBON, John James and John BACHMAN. <i>The Quadrupeds of North America.</i> 1849-1854. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> OGILBY, John, trans. [MONTANUS, Arnoldus]. <i>America: being the latest, and most Accurate Description of the New World…</i> London: Printed by the Author, 1671. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> HOBBES, Thomas. <i>Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.</i> London: printed for Andrew Crooke, 1651. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> BLACKWELL, Elizabeth. <i>A Curious Herbal, containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plant which are now used in the Practice of Physick…</i> London: John Nourse, 1739. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> MILTON, John. <i>Paradise Lost.</i> London: Printed by S. Simmons ... to be sold by T. Helder, 1669. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> MALCOLM X. Typed letter signed ("Malcolm X"), to Alex Haley. Cairo, Egypt, 18 September 1964. " 1 page, 8vo. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> TOLKIEN, John Ronald Reuel. Autograph letter signed (“JRRT”). To George Sayer, Oxford, 7 August 1952. 2 pages, 8vo, creased; morocco folding case. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> WRIGHT, Frank Lloyd. Autograph manuscript signed ("Frank Lloyd Wright"), entitled "To the Countryside." N.p. [Taliesin?], [June 1926]. 2 pages, 4to, creased. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Sep. 22:</b> CORONELLI, Vincenzo (1650-1718) - <i>Atlante Veneto.</i> Venezia: Domenico Padovani, 1690. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Sep. 22:</b> [CANALETTO] - VISENTINI, Antonio; da Giovanni Antonio CANAL (detto 'Il Canaletto'). - <i>Urbis Venetiarum prospectus celebriores.</i> Venezia, 1754. €12,000 to €18,000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Sep. 22:</b> RAMELLI, Agostino - <i>Le diverse et artificiose machine nelle quali si contengono uarij et artificiosi mouimenti…</i> Paris: presso l'autore, 1588. €6,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Sep. 22:</b> <i>Anthologia Graeca Planudea [in grego]</i> - Edita da: Janus Lascaris (1445-1535). Firenze: Lorenzo di Francesco de Alopa, 11 Agosto 1494. €10,000 to €15,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2013 Issue

A Handwritten Letter Sells for a Record $6 Million-Plus

Fcrickletter

Francis Crick's “Secret of Life” letter to his son.

On April 10, the highest price ever paid for a letter at auction was achieved at Christie's in New York. If there was any doubt about the growing interest in more ephemeral sorts of works on paper, this should help put it to rest. At over $6 million, or 3 to 6 times the estimate range, there was no shortage of serious interest.

The letter itself is something of a surprise. It was not from one of the great world leaders, a Lincoln, Churchill, or Napoleon. It was not from the most famous of scientists, a Galileo, Kepler, or Newton. It was not even very old, written just sixty years ago. The writer only died in the last decade, his partner and the recipient are still living (and attended the auction). While his name is well-recognized in the scientific community, if you interviewed people on the street and asked who Francis Crick is, most would probably respond with blank stares. What we now know about him is that, along with being a great scientist, he wrote a letter worth $6 million. Obviously, he is more important than the typical man on the street realizes.

For those who have forgotten, Francis Crick, along with his partner, James Watson, discovered the nature of the DNA molecule. To put it more bluntly, they discovered how physical characteristics, and life itself, is transmitted from one individual to another. They were first to understand how the DNA molecule could copy itself, and thereby transmit life to another. Crick and Watson had been working on models of the DNA molecule, trying to break the code. On the last day of February, 1953, they had their voilà moment. They suddenly realized how everything must fit together within the molecule for it all to work.

Crick was not shy in recognizing its importance. He announced to others, only “half-jokingly” as Watson would later write, that they had found “the secret of life.” The two spent March busily constructing models to get it down right, and began to prepare a paper they would submit to Nature magazine on April 2 announcing their discovery. It was during this period that Crick would write his $6 million letter. It was not directed to a fellow scientist or researcher. Instead, it was sent to a 12-year-old boy. That boy was Michael Crick, Francis's son, off at boarding school. Crick regularly explained such things to his son, who was interested in secret codes, so this clearly would have fascinated him. In his letter, Crick explains as clearly as possible what has been discovered. This is the first known written explanation of the discovery, and probably the only first account of such a major scientific discovery to conclude with the line, “Lots of love, Daddy.”

Francis Crick begins his letter modestly with, “Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of des-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. You may remember that the genes of the chromosomes - which carry the hereditary factors - are made up of protein and D.N.A. Our structure is very beautiful.” He goes on to say, “...we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life.” He also explains in more detail how its reproduction works, and even provides a crude drawing of their double helix model. Crick promises to show the model to his 12-year-old son when he comes home.

The importance of the discovery and the significance of this letter was well understood by Christie's. Its existence has long been known, it carrying the sobriquet of the “Secret of Life” letter. They slapped an estimate of $1 - $2 million on it. Not even they were prepared for what happened. By the time the bidding stopped, the price had crossed the $6 million mark (including commissions). The final price was $6,059,750. The letter was purchased by an unnamed buyer who placed a bid by telephone.

The auction included only two other items, both relating to Crick, and both easily surpassing estimates. An early 1950s four-page manuscript notebook, estimated at $4,000-$6,000, sold for $21,250. A pencil drawing of Crick by his wife, Odile, estimated at $8,000 - $12,000, went for $17,500. Odile Crick was an artist, though she is best known for her drawing of the double helix used by her husband and Watson.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Koller International Auctions<br>Books, Manuscripts & Autographs<br>23 September 2020</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Diderot, [Denis] - D'Alembert, [Jean Le Rond]. <i>Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers...</i> 17 text volumes, 4 supplement volumes, 11 plate volumes. €21,930 to €30,700.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> [Philipon, Ch.]. <i>La Caricature,</i> Journal. No. 1-251 in 4 volumes. With 526 lithographs by H. Daumier, Grandville, A. Devéria, P. Gavarni, M. Delaporte, Adam, Raffet, Huot et al. €7,020 to €10,530.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Chagall, Marc. <i>Le Cirque</i>, Paris 1967. With 38 (of which 23 coloured and 3 double-page) original lithographs by M. Chagall. €61,400 to €78,950.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> L'Isle, Guillaume de. <i>Atlas nouveau, contenant toutes les parties du monde.</i> [AND:] Sanson, Guillaume. <i>Inleidinge tot de geographie. 3 volumes.</i> €19,300 to €28,070.
    <center><b>Koller International Auctions<br>Books, Manuscripts & Autographs<br>23 September 2020</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Roberts, David. <i>The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia…</i> Lithographed by Louis Haghe. 6 parts in 6 volumes. 238 original lithographs and 2 engraved maps. €19,300 to €28,070.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Berlèse, Lorenzo and Johann Jakob Jung. <i>Iconographie du genre camellia ou description et figures des camellia les plus beaux et les plus rares.</i> 3 volumes. With 301 coloured engraved plates. €17,540 to €21,930.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Merian, Maria Sybilla. <i>Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaamsche insecten...</i> With engraved frontispiece, title vignette and 72 copperplates. €17,540 to €26,320.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Burckhardt, Johann Ludwig, Explorer. Collection of 24 handwritten letters from his youth and student days to his eldest (step) brother, Johann Burckhardt-Gemuseus and his wife Anna Elisabeth. €2,630 to €4,390.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Chagall (Marc). <i>Cirque,</i> one of 270 copies on Arches signed by the artist, 38 lithographs, 23 colour, Paris, Tériade Éditeur, 1967. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Sangorski (Alberto).- Poe (Edgar Allan). <i>Annabel Lee and Other Poems,</i> illuminated manuscript in gold and colours, bound in turquoise morocco tooled in gilt and inlaid with 35 jewels, [c.1928]. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Darwin (Charles) and Alfred R. Wallace. “On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties...,” contained in <i>Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society,</i> 1859. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Ornament.- Basque metalwork.- Zuloaga (Eusebio) and Workshop. Collection of twenty-three original ornament designs for damascening, [19th century]. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Arms and Armour.- Rugendas.- <i>Der Harnisch Von Seinem Entstehen Bis Zu Seinem Wiedervergehen In Bildern Dargestelt Und Gezeichnet,</i> [1714 and later]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Webster (John). <i>A Monumental Columne, erected to the liuing memory of the euer-glorious Henry, late Prince of Wales,</i> rare first edition, Printed by N[icholas]. O[kes]. for William Welby, 1613. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Donne (John). <i>Poems, by J.D. with elegies on the Authors Death,</i> first edition, Printed by M[iles]. F[lesher]. for Iohn Marriot, 1633. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Brangwyn (Frank). <i>Venice,</i> oil on canvas, [c. 1908]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Sewell (Anna). <i>Black Beauty: his Grooms and Companions. The Autobiography of a Horse,</i> first edition, original cloth, [1877]. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Gray (John Edward). <i>Gleanings from the Knowsley Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall,</i> first edition, one of c.100 copies privately printed for the author, 1850. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> George III (King). Warrant signed "George R" for the payment of £60,634 granted for the North American Provinces to the Province of Massachusetts Bay, D.s., manuscript, [c. 1761-62]. £2,000 to £2,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Mecca, Medina & Damascus.- 2 manuscript plans of Mecca and El Medinah and a map of Damascus, 3 detailed pen and ink drawings with 3pp. of manuscript notes, [late 19th century]. £1,000 to £1,500.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of<br>16th and 17th century English books from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Locke (John). <i>An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding in Four Books,</i> first edition, second issue, 1690. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Plutarch. <i>The lives of the noble Grecians and Romanes, compared together by that graue learned philosopher and historiographer, Plutarke of Chæronea,</i> first edition of this translation, 1579. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> [Allott (Robert, editor)]. <i>Wits Theater of the little World,</i> first edition, 1599. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of 16th and 17th century English books<br>from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Execution of Quakers in Boston.- Stephenson (Marmaduke). <i>A Call from Death to Life,</i> first edition, 1660. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Boyle (Robert). <i>The sceptical chymist: or Chymico-physical doubts & paradoxes…,</i> 2 parts in 1 vol., second edition, 1680. £3,500 to £4,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Atlases.- Morden (Robert). <i>[Geography Rectified: or, A Description of the World],</i> [c.1688]. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of 16th and 17th century English books<br>from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Bread.- Penkethman (John). <i>Artachthos or a New Booke declaring the Assise or Weight of Bread,</i> 1638. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Anatomy.- Collins (Samuel). <i>A Systeme of Anatomy, treating of the Body of Man, Beasts, Birds, Fish, Insects, and Plants,</i> 2 vol., first edition, 1685. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Wine.- [Ames (Richard)]. <i>The Bacchanalian Sessions; or The Conten' tion of Liquors: With a Farewel to Wine,</i> first edition, 1693. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of 16th and 17th century English books<br>from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Witchcraft.- Bekker (Balthasar). <i>The World Bewitch'd; or, An Examination of the Common Opinions Concerning Spirits,</i> vol. 1 (all published), first English edition, 1695. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Great Plague and Great Fire of London prophesied.- Lilly (William). <i>Monarchy or No Monarchy in England,</i> first edition, 1651. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Swimming.- Thevenot (Melchisédec). <i>The Art of Swimming. Illustrated by Proper Figures. With Advice for Bathing,</i> first edition in English, 1699. £1,500 to £2,000.

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