Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2015 Issue

The AE Top 500 Prices Paid at Auction in 2014

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It was the year of Tintin. Thirty-four drawings.

Once again a year has come to an end, meaning it is time to look back at the top 500 prices paid at auction in 2014 in the field of books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera (see end of article for a description of what is included). Once again, there was one eight-digit item at the top that far exceeded anything else. Last year, the Bay Psalm Book went for more than double the second highest priced item. This year, it was more than triple.

 

More telling about the overall health of the upper end of the market was the price at #500. This year, the low end of the top 500 was more than $10,000 higher than last year, coming in right around $80,000. Those with the means were spending it more freely in 2014. What we also see is a shift in the market. Whereas books once dominated this list, ephemeral material that in the past rarely made it to these lofty prices is now filling the majority of places. One of a kind manuscripts, both beautifully illuminated ones from many centuries ago, and those of historic importance are bringing high prices. Original illustrations used in books are often bringing in prices much greater than the books themselves.

 

Another form of book, virtually unheard of at the top a few years ago, is now peppered throughout the list. We are talking about comic books, and the original art created for them. They particularly dominate twentieth century material on the list, while books and illuminated manuscripts are strongest among the older works.

 

This past year, the most appearances were made not by Shakespeare or Washington or names we have seen in the past. An amazing performance was put in by a name it is unlikely most Americans even know. The leader for 2014 is Belgian Georges Remi, better known (but probably not to most Americans) as Hergé. Hergé was a comic book writer and artist, creator of the strip and character Tintin. Hergé's creations fill an incredible 14 places in the Top 500. Most are original artwork for Tintin's comic book adventures. Another frequent visitor to the list is John James Audubon, the result of auctions of individual plates from his Birds of America conducted by the Arader Galleries. Single plates are now so highly valued that they make the Top 500. The Beatles also made numerous appearances. They come in the form of manuscripts - letters, music lyrics, and drafts of a number of writings by John Lennon.

 

Still, that does not mean there is no room for the great names in literature and history. They are still here where they belong. You will find writers such as Fitzgerald, Carroll, Whitman, Baudelaire, Beckett, Proust, Salinger, the Bronte Sisters, Goethe, Hemingway, Camus, Melville, Potter, Joyce, Doyle, Tolkien, Nabokov, Kerouac, Wilde, Eliot, Austen, Hugo, Roth, Baum, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, Chaucer and Shakespeare.

 

From political leadership there is Washington, Napoleon, Churchill, Kennedy, Jefferson, Paine, Gandhi, Revere, Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, John Smith, and Catherine of Aragon (the first Mrs. Henry VIII).

 

From science and exploration we find Darwin, Cook, Ptolemy, Lewis & Clark, Flinders, Newton, Kepler, Watson, Champlain, Drake, Galileo, Bligh, Einstein, and Copernicus.

 

From the field of music we have Rachmaninov, Dylan, Mozart, the Beatles, and Beethoven.

 

Here are the top 10 highest prices from 2014. At the end of this list is a link to the complete Top 500.

 

10. An unfinished Mozart manuscript Kyrie. It is undated, but has been estimated, based on handwriting, as coming from 1772 when Mozart was 16 years old. $971,880.

 

9. We hear of huge prices for American superhero comics, but 2014 was the year of Tintin, the French reporter. This item is cover art for L'Ile Noire (the Black Island), original black and white version, by Hergé (Georges Remi), 1942. $1,385,344.

 

7. Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, by Raoul Lefevre, circa 1473-74. This history of Troy is noted as the first book printed in English, by translator and printer William Caxton. $1,851,075.

 

7. Illuminated vellum manuscript Missal for use in Udine, circa 1430-35. $1,851,075.

 

6. Autograph manuscript for Sergei Rachmaninov's Second Symphony in E Minor, circa 1908. $2,020,200.

 

5. Original autograph manuscript of Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, recorded in 1965. $2,045,000.

 

4. The Birds of America, a double elephant folio first edition (1827-38). The Indiana Historical Society copy that was once used in a library, making it a good but not great copy (hence the “cheap” price). Until just over a year ago, another copy of Birds achieved the highest price ever for a printed book at auction. $3,525,000.

 

3. He's back again. A double page of 34 drawings of Tintin and related characters/scenes from 1937 by Hergé. It achieved a record price for a work related to comics. Take that, man of steel! $3,636,528.

 

2. The first printing of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible) in its original language, and the first printed Hebrew book which includes vowels and signs. Contains Rashi's commentaries. Printed in January 1482. $3,871,845.

 

1. The Rothschild Prayerbook, a Book of Hours circa 1505-10, that is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance manuscript illumination. $13,605,000.

 

To see the complete AE Top 500 list click here.

 

An Explanation of What Is Included in the List

 

This list covers the top items in books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera (or works on paper), which of necessity requires some parameters. Here is what gets in: books of any kind, maps and manuscripts virtually all, with ephemera, it depends. Most “ephemera” in the works on paper field consists of images – photographs, prints, drawings, paintings. If all of these were included, virtually the entire top 500 would be art, but that's a different field. What is included are images that are in effect textual, that is, they relay information more than beauty. Photographs from the dawn of the discovery of photography, or those which capture historical events are included. Photographs of Lincoln, war, and the suffering of the Depression are in. Photographs by photographic artists are not. Drawings and paintings intended for books are in. Every year, there is always some E. H. Shepard artwork for Winnie-the-Pooh included. Drawings for comic books are included too. Why? Because of the second word in the expression “comic books.” However, Picasso and Warhol, who would dominate the list if included, are not.

 

Books that are essentially coffee table books, plates of images and little else, still make the cut. They may be art, but they are still books. Put them in a portfolio, and they are out.

 

Almost everything on the list is composed of paper, but even that is not a certainty. Vellum manuscripts or sheepskin make the cut. Once in awhile, there is something totally different, like cuneiform tablets. They are really just yesterday's manuscripts. If anyone ever discovers the true first edition of the Ten Commandments, it too will make the list.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, <i>El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha . . . Nueva Edición,</i> first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French, France, 1530-40s. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin, France, mid-15th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b><br><i>Die Ernsthaffte Christenpflicht,</i> earliest known edition of the first complete Mennonite prayer book, 1708. $300 to $500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Georg Agricola, <i>De ortu & causis subterraneorum Lib V.,</i> first edition, Basel, 1546. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Frederick Ruysch, <i>Icon durae matris in concava [convexa] superficie visae,</i> with 2 mezzotints by Jan Ladmiral, first edition, Amsterdam, 1737. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, <i>Eine Neue Art von Strahlen,</i> Würzburg, 1895. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pietro Carrera, <i>Il Gioco de gli Scacchi,</i> first edition, Militello, 1617. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> William Lithgow, <i>The Totall Discourse, of the Rare Adventures</i> [etc.], London, 1632. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pseudo-Methodius, <i>De revelatione facta . . . beato Methodio,</i> Basel, 1504. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Hrabanus Maurus, <i>De laudibus sancte crucis opus,</i> Pforzheim, 1503. $1,000 to $2,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Autograph album featuring signatures by prominent actors, politicians, musicians and authors, including Rudolph Valentino. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> An extremely rare working radio script for Crazy People No 29, the first series of <i>The Goon Show.</i> £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Manuscript prayer book, in German. 8vo, 1755 £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Italian Manuscript on Geometry, with diagrams, 18th century. £500 to £700
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Thorburn (Archibald). Sparrowhawk, original watercolour & gouache, signed & dated lower right, 1917. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Burton (Sir Richard Francis). <i>Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.</i> 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, 1855-56. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> [Mount (Richard) & Page (Thomas)]. <i>The English Pilot. Describing the Sea-Coasts…</i> 31 engraved maps, W. & J. Mount, T. Page, 1756 £4000 to £6000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> D’apres De Mannevillette (Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis). <i>Le Neptune Oriental.</i> Paris & Brest, [1775 – 1781]. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Loring (Josiah). Terrestrial Globe Containing all the Late Discoveries and Geographical Improvements. Boston, Gilman Joslin, 1846, £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Shelley (G. E., Capt.). <i>A Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds,</i> FIRST EDITION, by the Author, 1876-80. £4,000 to £6,000
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000

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