Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2014 Issue

The AE Top 500 Prices Paid at Auction for Books and Works on Paper in 2013

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Albrecht Durer's anatomically incorrect rhinoceros.

Another year comes to an end, and once again it is time to look back at the highest prices paid at auction for items in the books and works on paper field. This will again be a year for record volume at auction. At the top end, we saw a record high price paid for a printed book, and a record for a manuscript letter. The former was noted for its age, the latter its content.

 

All of the AE Top 500 for 2013 sold at prices of $67,950 or higher. That is down slightly from last year's $71,700. Nine items exceeded $1 million in price, versus 11 last year. However, this year's record for a printed book, over $14 million, was 44% higher than the $9.8 million for 2012's number 1, George Washington's copy of the U.S. Constitution. Washington fans need have no fear as two of his items made it into the top 10 for 2013. The number 1 item exceeded the previous record paid for a printed book, John James Audubon's double elephant folio Birds of America, by 23%. At the top, the rich keep getting richer.

 

The trend to more of the highest prices being grabbed by works on paper other than traditional printed books continues. One-of-a-kind manuscripts, once something of s step-child to the field, have become more appreciated for their uniqueness. Original musical scores now populate the list. Other ephemeral items, including maps and broadsides, gather greater attention. And look at comic books! Consigned to attics if not the trash bin a few decades ago, they now inhabit the mansions of the finest neighborhoods. American action comics (as opposed to “funny” papers) lead the way, though the French comic Tintin pulls in big bucks like a superhero too.

 

In a moment we will get to the Top 10, but first we start with a few other items of interest. At the end of the article, you will find a link to the complete AE Top 500 plus an explanation as to which sorts of works on paper qualify for this list, and which do not.

 

Item 496. Nothing combines science and religion like this book – a copy of the Bible inscribed by Albert Einstein. Einstein, not noted as a religious man, writes that the Bible can offer wisdom and consolation. $68,500.

 

Item 383. A letter from President Abraham Lincoln to General George McClellan. “Is it your purpose not to go into action,” an exasperated Lincoln writes his chief commander on October 27, 1862. Nine days later, he fired McClellan, who then unsuccessfully opposed Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election. $81,250.

 

Item 264. Galileo's Dialogo, wherein he confirms the Copernican theory of a heliocentric (sun centered) solar system, and gets himself placed under permanent house arrest by the Church for his efforts. $105,750.

 

Item 254. Letter from George Washington's secretary Tobias Lear, dated December 15, 1799, to President John Adams, informing him of Washington's death. $108,000.

 

Item 229. The extremely rare first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's collection of short stories, Flappers and Philosophers, published in 1920. $118,750.

 

Item 178. Autograph manuscript poem in a miniscule hand by then 13-year-old Charlotte Bronte, essentially to be shared with her sisters, though published with her poems many years later after she became famous. $142,373.

 

Item 93. This is certainly not a “work on paper,” though it worked on paper. It could not be left off of this list. It is the Albion press, manufactured in 1891, that William Morris used at his Kelmscott Press, including to print the masterpiece of all fine press works, the Kelmscott Chaucer. $233,000.

 

Item 39. Pearl Harbor damage assessment map, prepared on December 8, 1941, by lead Japanese pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, for a presentation to Emperor Hirohito. $425,000.

 

Item 21. A letter by Alfred Dreyfus, written a month after entering prison, to the Minister of the Interior. Dreyfus was the Jewish French military officer falsely convicted of turning over secrets to the Germans. His cause became a cause celebre in turn of the century France, featuring writer Emile Zola's impassioned defense of his innocence. In his letter, Dreyfus proclaims his innocence of the most infamous crime a soldier can commit, and says he considered suicide. $594,750.

 

And now, for the Top 10...

 

10. The Rhinoceros, by Albrecht Durer, 1515. Durer produced both books and art. This one is on the border. It's a print of a rhinoceros with some descriptive copy. Some call it art, but it primarily conveyed information, though incorrect info. The King of Portugal received a rhinoceros, not seen in Europe in a thousand years, as a gift. Durer drew the rhino. However, Durer never saw the animal. He drew it from another's drawing. So, Durer's rhino has armored plates, a horn on its neck, and scales, something real rhinos don't have. Still, Durer's image was used for a couple of hundred years, and even after more rhinos arrived in Europe. $866,500.

 

9. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, by Nicolaus Copernicus, published in 1543. This is a first edition of the revolutionary work that placed the sun, not the earth, at the center of the solar system. This controversial theory would later get Galileo placed under house arrest, but Copernicus had the good sense to die shortly after it was published (and his editor added a note not to take the theory literally). $1,073,250.


Posted On: 2014-01-01 18:03
User Name: uichemist62

Copernicus argued that the SUN not the earth was at the center of the solar system. Look at the diagram displayed to confirm. "Sol" is the sun. Galaieo's heresy was against the teachings of the Catholic Church that the Earth was the center of the solar system.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800

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