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 Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Dubliners,</i> first edition, signed presentation inscription from the author, 1914. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> The Beatles.- Baker (Geoffrey.) 3 Autograph Letters and 1 Autograph Card signed to Ann Gosnell, addtionally sgn’d by George Harrison, John Lennon, Cynthia Lennon and others, 1968. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Pilgrim Press.- Dod (John). <i>A plaine and familiar exposition of the tenne commandements ...,</i> [Leiden], [William Brewster], 1617. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Automaton Chess Player & Mechanical Illusion.- Reynell (H., printer). “The Famous Chess-Player, No.14, St.James's-Street, next Brooks's,” broadside advertisement for "The famous Automaton", [1784]. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Clemens (Samuel Langhorne). <i>Life on the Mississippi,</i> first English edition, signed presentation inscription from the author, 1883. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Arctic Sledge Flag.- Fulford (Reginald Baldwin). Sledge flag... HMS Discovery, 1875. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> first edition, first printing, 1997. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Piranesi (Giovanni Battista). <i>Le Antichità Romane,</i> 4 vol., 1756. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal, called). <i>Urbis Venetiarum Prospectus Celebriores,</i> 3 parts in 1, Richard Ford's copy, Venice, Giovanni Battista Pasquali, 1751. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Atlases.- Speed (John). <i>A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World,</i> bound with <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine,</i> 1631-27. £12,000 to £18,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Anatomical illustration.- Aselli (Gaspare). <i>De lactibus sive lacteis venis... dissertatio,</i> first edition, Milan, Giovanni Battista Bidelli, 1627. £20,000 to £30,000
  • <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 8vo, 1997. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Bible, Italian.- Malermi Bible, woodcut illustrations, folio, Lazaro de Soardi & Bernardino Benali, Venice,1517. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Germany.- Homann (Johann Baptist). <i>Atlas von Deutschland,</i> engraved half title, hand coloured, 87 double page engraved maps, [folio, Erben, Nuremberg, 1753]. £8,000 to £10,000
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> [Mirk (John)].- <i>Liber festivalis et Quatuor sermons</i> [bound with], [Le Roy (Pierre)] <i>A Pleasant Satyre or Poesie,</i> first edition in English, Widdow Orwin for Thomas Man, 1595, 8vo. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Antoninus Florentinus (Saint Archbishop of Florence). <i>Confessionale: Defecerunt…,</i> 8vo, Pietro Quarengi, Venice, 15 February 1499. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Jesuit Letters.- [Froes (Father Luigi) & et al.)] Avvisi del Giapone de gli anni 1582, 1583, 1584…, 1586 [bound with] Avvisi della Cina et Giapone…, FIRST EDITIONS, Rome. £1,000 to £1,500
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Plutarch & Probus (Aemilius). <i>Plutarchi Cheronei et Aemilii Probi Illustrium,</i> folio, Nicolas de Pratis for Jean-Petit, Paris, 1521. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Bible.- English. <i>The Byble in Englyshe of the Largest and Greatest volume,</i> elaborate woodcut border, text vignettes, folio, 1541. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Fore-edge Painting.- Lord George Byron, The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale, bound with 10 other titles, 4 plates marked 'Proof.', 1813. £800 to £1,200
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Manson (John). Twelve by Sixteen Papers of John Mason, a collection of 50 sheets of paper, some watermarked, 12 x 16”, c.1978. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Dr. No,</i> FIRST EDITION, original boards, dust-jacket, 8vo, 1958. £700 to £900
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Eliot (T.S.) <i>Four Quartets,</i> NUMBER 121 of 290 COPIES, signed by author, 1960. £400 to £600

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