Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2004 Issue

Skinners: An Interesting Auction

Lot 26: Portrait of Three Children (with 3 books)


By Bruce McKinney

I’m always interested to read the Skinner Auction catalogues. Their upcoming sale on June 6th, - American Furniture & Decorative Arts – is no exception. To entice the bibliophile books appear from time to time interspersed among the antiques, antiquities, paintings and the occasional exotic memorabilia. The catalogue is, per usual, a sophisticated four color presentation. I particularly like to look for paintings that contain books because people who collect books can be starved for some visual accouterment to spice up their shelves of Shakespeare first folios, Washington letters and Washington Irving firsts. Of course it’s also possible to be visually starved with great books whose appeal is entirely personal and whose value will not set appraisers’ hearts racing. In this sale there are some interesting books, manuscripts and memorabilia and there are also three paintings that include books. Let’s consider the paintings.

First there is lot 26, a Portrait of Three Children, unsigned and estimated to date to 1835-1845. In this painting there are three books in suspiciously good condition. Librarians will instantly recognize props. It may be that this family only owned books and didn’t read them and it may be that the painter simply wished to convey intellectual acuity. If so, they succeeded. The painting was found in the Albany/Oneonta section of the Hudson River Valley area, a strange domain that does not exist in real life, only apparently in auction catalogues. Oneonta and the Hudson River have never met, and short of a cataclysm, never will. The painting is about 34 inches by 27 inches and will convey a sense of history and intelligence to any buyer who buys it to gussy up the lib. This painting is estimated $5,000 to $8,333 per book.

Next there is lot 243 that is actually two paintings each with one book. These are portraits of the Thayer Twins and are attributed to Joseph Whiting Stock who painted in New York and New England. It will help if you are related to these sisters because they can’t take their eyes off of you. In both pictures there is an outdoor tableau with water. These scenes could be anywhere so buyers in every state from Illinois east can potentially claim them as theirs. They both seem to be holding the same book and the binding looks suspiciously fresh. Poetry was popular at that time and this book might be of that type. The quality of the binding makes me wish to see the other side of the room. Good books like, deserve and usually have good company. The pair of paintings is estimated $15,000 to $25,000 per book.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.

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