Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2015 Issue

A Record Price for a Book Sold on AbeBooks

An illustration from Storia degli Uccelli...

AbeBooks, the world's largest book listing site, set a record price for a book purchased through their site recently. They didn't just set a record, they blew the old one away, with a price almost three times as much as they had ever seen before. It was their first six-figure sale, with someone clicking a button on their computer and thereby spending $191,000. The internet does seem to be coming of age.

 

The book comes from what is a very popular niche today, though it is not a common book in the field. It is one of those magnificent illustrated ornithologies, not Audubon or Gould, but an 18th century precursor. The title is Storia degli Uccelli...Ornithologia methodice... part of a long title that translates, essentially, to A Natural History of Birds. It was published in five volumes from 1767-1776. The text was written by the Florentine physician and ornithologist Saverio Manetti. The illustrations were created by Lorenzo Lorenzi, and Violante Vanni, one of the rare women to achieve such a position in those times. She was described by a contemporary as a “woman of very low extraction but of great skill.” The book stresses that all birds were drawn from life, though some of those “live” birds were stuffed. Still, it means they were accurate representations of the birds' appearance, not something drawn from memory or imagination.

 

This was considered one of the finest bird books published as of the date, and one of the most spectacular of 18th century Italian works. It is considered a forerunner to the great ornithology books that were published in the 19th century.

 

Commenting on the sale, Richard Davies, merchandising manager at AbeBooks said, “We're thrilled to have sold such a valuable book for one of our booksellers. We have been expecting a sale of this magnitude for some time. A small number of people are comfortable spending large amounts of money online.”

 

The previous highest price paid on AbeBooks was $65,000, a milestone achieved twice. Once was for a copy of The Hobbit, a first edition from 1937. The other was a copy of Areopagitica, a 1644 pamphlet by John Milton, writer of Paradise Lost, defending freedom of the press before Parliament. Three other books also reached the $60,000 mark on Abe: Der Naturforscher, a 13-volume natural history set published from 1774-1804, Utopia, a 1518 fourth edition of Sir Thomas More's classic about an ideal state, and Poems with elegies on the author's death by John Donne, a 1633 first edition of his first collection of poems.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
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    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes

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