Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2015 Issue

A Record Price for a Book Sold on AbeBooks

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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

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.

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