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

  • <center><b>Doyle<br>Stage & Screen<br>Auction April 28</b>
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 12. OKLAHOMA! Celeste Holm's vocal score for Oklahoma! inscribed by Richard Rodgers. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 20. WILSON, DOOLEY. Fine inscribed photograph to Celeste Holm with Casablanca reference. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 79. Original production script of the Broadway musical CATS with notes written by Claude Tessier. $600 to $900.
    <center><b>Doyle<br>Stage & Screen<br>Auction April 28</b>
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 139. STEPHEN SONDHEIM. Autographed musical manuscript signed for "Broadway Baby" from Follies. $500 to $800.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 180.<br>Cecil Beaton. Headdress for Liza at the Ball, from My Fair Lady, circa 1962. $700 to $900.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 177.<br>Cecil Beaton. Set Design for The Gainsborough Girls, 1951. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
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    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.

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