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:</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.
  • <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>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.
  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930
  • <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Pushkin, Alexander. <i>Evgenii Onegin. A novel in verse.</i> A first edition of the most important work in Russian literature in its original parts, 1825–32. £120,000 to £160,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Gogol, Nikolai. <i>Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka.</i> A rare first edition of Gogol's first masterpiece, 1831–32. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Darwin, Charles Robert. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.</i> First edition, owned and read by two contemporaries of Darwin. London: John Murray, 1859. £140,000 to £200,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Galilei, Galileo. <i>Sidereus Nuncius.</i> First edition, announcing the first astronomical discoveries made with the telescope. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, [March] 1610. £300,000 to £500,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> The seal of Wulfric. England, first half 11th century. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Bible, <i>Ezechiel</i> in Latin. [Northern Italy, 5th century]. £120,000 to £180,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Blaeu, Jan and Willem Blaeu. <i>Grooten Atlas [Atlas Major]</i>. Amsterdam: Johannes Blaeu, 1664. £450,000 to £650,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Petites Heures of Charles VIII use of Paris, in Latin. An exquisite Hours illuminated by the Master of the Chronique Scandaleuse. [Paris, 1490s]. £300,000 to £500,000

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