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>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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