• <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson: Online-Only Auction. Now through June 18</b>
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> MYERS, ARTHUR B.[OWEN] R.[ICHARDS] Life with the Hamran Arabs... $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> LYELL, D. D. Nyasaland for the Hunter and Settler. $600 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> JOHNSON, ISAAC CHARLES Sport on the Blue Nile… $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson: Online-Only Auction. Now through June 18</b>
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> BETHELL, ALFRED J. Notes on South African Hunting and Notes on a Ride to the Victoria Falls… $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> BISHOP, B. F. Game & Visitor's Book. $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold "Jake" Johnson:</b> BYRON, EDMUND What We Did in South Africa in 1873. $600 to $900
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Cook, James. <i>A Voyage towards the South Pole,</i> 1st edition, 1777. Presentation copy to James Furneaux. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Mathews, Gregory M. <i>The Birds of Australia,</i> 13 volumes, 1st edition, 1910-27. A fine set, with 600 hand-coloured lithographs. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Shelley, George Ernest. <i>Monograph of the Nectariniidae,</i> 1st edition, 1876-80. With 121 hand-coloured lithographic plates by Keulemans. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Nostradamus, Michel de. <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> 1st edition in English, 1672. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Collodi, Carlo. <i>Le Avventure di Pinocchio,</i> 1st edition, 1883. Original cloth. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Kelmscott Press. <i>The Life and Death of Jason,</i> 1895. One of 200 copies on paper. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Ambler, Eric. <i>Uncommon Danger,</i> 1st edition, 1937. With the dust jacket. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Huxley, Aldous. <i>Crome Yellow,</i> 1st edition, 1921. Rare in the dust jacket. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Isherwood, Christopher. <i>Goodbye to Berlin,</i> 1st edition, 1939. With the dust jacket, £1,000 to £1,500
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Lewis, C. S. Autograph letter signed to Charles Jasper Sisson (1885-1966), 1937. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Tolkien, J. R. R. <i>The Lord of the Rings,</i> 1956-7. Signed by Tolkien in each volume. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Wells, H. G. <i>The War of the Worlds,</i> 1st edition, 1898. Inscribed by Wells with autograph self-portrait. £3,000 to £5,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> NYC pride parade photos by Hank O’Neal, annotated on verso by Allen Ginsberg, 1970s. Pictured is Marsha P. Johnson. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Neon Dancer,</i> postcard signed to Jim Fouratt, 1982. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Personal papers of Candy Darling, New York, circa 1950s-1973. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Walt Whitman, <i>Memoranda of the War,</i> Remembrance Copy, inscribed to Peter Doyle, from “the author with his love,” Camden, 1875-76. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,</i> first edition, signed, London, 1899. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> James Baldwin, <i>Giovanni’s Room,</i> first edition, presentation copy, New York, 1956. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> JEB (Joan E. Biren), <i>Ginger and Catherine,</i> silver print, 1972. $700 to $1,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Su Negrin, <i>Gay Liberation,</i> photograph by Peter Hujar, poster published by Times Change Press, 1970. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Harvey Milk, Autograph Letter Signed, as acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Lester Beall, <i>Rural Electrification Administration,</i> 1939. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Gerda Wegener, <i>Two Women in a Window,</i> watercolor, chalk & wash, circa 1920. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Jean Cocteau, original sketchbook, <i>Le Mystère et Antigone,</i> including sketches of his lover Jean Desbordes, 1932. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Djuna Barnes, <i>Ladies Almanack . . . Written & Illustrated by A Lady of Fashion,</i> limited edition, signed & inscribed to her literary executor, 1928. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> Shakespeare and Company, Paris 1922, First Edition, No. 30 of 100 copies. Signed by Joyce and printed on fine Dutch handmade paper. €70,000 to €90,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b><br>A very important collection of accounts, draft statements, ledgers etc., from the archive of Domhnall Ua Conchubhair [O’Connor] [1872-1935]. €15,000 to €20,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>De Honni-Soit a Mal-y-Chance.</i> Mesures, 15 Janvier 1936. [French translation of Joyce’s essay from a banned writer to a banned signer, a tribute to John Sullivan]. €7,000 to €10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Finnegans Wake,</i> 8vo L. (Faber & Faber) 1939, Signed and Limited 21 (450) Copies. €1,500 to €2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Swift (Jonathan). <i>The Works of J.S. D.D.,</i> D.S.P.D., Vol. I – Vol. XVIII, together 18 vols. Faulkner’s Edition of Swift – Lord Orrery’s Copy. €1,000 to €1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Eyzinger (Michael). <i>Ad Leonis Belgici Topographicam atque Historicam Descriptionem,</i> 2 vols.in one, [Cologne] 1586. Excessively rare 16th century work with 162 double page engravings. €1,000 to €1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Yeats (W.B.). <i>The Dublin University Review,</i> issue for June 1886, containing the first printing of Yeats’ poem “Mosada” at pp. 473-483. €800 to €1,200
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Heaney (Seamus) & O’Neill (T.) <i>Columcille The Scribe,</i> Single m/ss on vellum, R.I.A. 2004, #95 (of 100) copies. €800 to €1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Bonaparte (Napoleon). A French Republic Brevet (Republique Francaise) Department of War manuscript and printed document appointing Gaspard Bourves to Captain. Signed. €600 to €700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Irish Broadsides Ballads: A folio Album containing approx. 70 Dublin printed broadside ballads, mostly by Brereton, Lr. Exchange St., and with wd. cut illus. at head. €400 to €600
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Anon. <i>The State of Irish Affairs, For the Honourable Members of the Houses of Parliament…</i>. 4to Lond. (G. Miller) 1645. €300 to €400
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> [Graham (Doctor James)]. <i>A Lecture on the Generation Increase and Improvement of the Human Species…</i>, 8vo L. (M. Smith) [c. 1784]. €200 to €300

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2016 Issue

What Now for the Vast Valmadonna Trust Library?

C1d1a3ae-3c5b-4750-a7e3-fdcc798769dd

The Babylonian Talmud, courtesy of Sotheby's.

In what could be described as saving the best for last, the most expensive book sold at auction in 2015 was hammered down on December 22 at Sotheby's in New York, the last major sale of the year. That book was a complete Babylonian Talmud, published in Venice by Daniel Bomberg in the early 16th century. It sold for $9,322,000, almost three times the price of the runner up. The second highest priced item, the only known Hebrew Bible published in England prior to the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, sold for $3,610,000. Both of these items were offered at the Sotheby's sale of December 22, one of just 12 items in the sale. The single owner seller was the Valmadonna Trust Library of London. Nine of the 12 items sold, bringing in $14,868,000.

 

Prior to the sale, the Valmadonna Trust Library owned approximately 13,000 books and 300 manuscripts of Judaica. It was said to be the finest collection of Judaica held in private hands. A quick calculation indicates they still own about 13,291 items. What were sold were clearly some of the finest items from the collection, which leads to the question, what will become of the rest? The trustees aren't saying, but there is an implication there will be more sales. Sotheby's labeled the Valmadonna sale as "Part 1."

 

The Valmadonna Trust Library began over half a century ago. It is essentially one man's collection. That man is Jack Lunzer, a Belgian born retired British industrial diamond merchant. His wife's family had a small collection of Hebrew books, which fueled Mr. Lunzer's collecting passion. The collection built over the decades, and became something of a solace for Mr. Lunzer after his wife died in 1978.

 

The collection was placed in a trust by Mr. Lunzer for his five daughters. The trustees operate independently of him, though with obvious concern for his wishes.

 

A few years ago, with Mr. Lunzer then in his 80's, it was determined plans needed to be made to find a home for his library after he died. However, Mr. Lunzer made a few stipulations. He wanted the collection to be kept together, and to be available to researchers. This created a problem. The library, which before the sale was valued at something in the $40 million range, was too expensive for most of the institutions that are logical buyers to afford. Its size may also have posed obstacles as 13,300 very old items require much space and care.

 

A few years back, it was reported that the Library of Congress was interested. There were reports that it was willing to pay $20 million, but this is uncertain. The Library never said whether it made an offer. Nothing ever happened, presuming there was an offer, possibly because $20 million was insufficient, or other reasons.

 

In 2009, the Trust brought the collection to Sotheby's in New York to try to arrange for a private sale. At the time, it was said that $25 million was the minimum bid that would be accepted. Unconfirmed reports said there was a bidder at that price, but the bidder was unwilling to meet the requirements that no part of the library be sold off or that it be made available to scholars. What is clear is that no one was willing to meet all of the requirements of the Trust, including the price. No sale was made.

 

Today, Mr. Lunzer is 91 years old. It is said that he is no longer able to fully participate in plans for his library. This has made the need to come up with a long range plan more urgent. It appears that his five daughters keeping the collection together is not an option. Unable to sell the collection en bloc, the trustees decided to separately sell some of its most valuable items. It is likely that the two items that headed the list of highest book auction prices for 2015 were the two most valuable. The thought was that if the most expensive items were sold separately, and these nine alone have taken in almost $15 million of the $25-$40 million the trust expects, the remainder of the library could be priced at a figure some institution might be able to afford.

 

What happens next? Other than the "part 1" implication another sale is coming, it is unclear. Will the Trust attempt to sell off some more top pieces in hopes of further reducing the required price for the bulk of the material? Will another attempt be made to sell the remainder of the collection as a whole, in accordance with Mr. Lunzer's wishes? This is undoubtedly the hope of most Hebrew scholars, but whether such a buyer exists is unknown. Those interested in the outcome of this story, or perhaps even in buying the Valmadonna Trust Library, should keep an eye on Sotheby's upcoming sales.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i> Walden: or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> BUKOWSKI, CHARLES. Archive of Correspondence Addressed to Kay "Kaja" Johnson, Los Angeles, California: July – November 1961. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> DICKENS, CHARLES, AND GEORGE CRUIKSHANK [ILLUSTRATOR]. Unpublished autograph letter signed, to Cruikshank, completed on the artist's proof, related to the publication of The Pic-Nic Papers. $7,000 to $10,000
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> FEYNMAN, RICHARD. <i>"Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!" Adventures of a Curious Character.</i> As Told to Ralph Leighton. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> GERSHWIN, GEORGE. Autograph music manuscript of "Leavin’ for de Promise’ Lan’" from the opera Porgy and Bess, Act One Scene Two. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. Document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as sixteenth president, being a military commission for Rufus H. Johnson. $8,000 to $10,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Very Fine. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Neill, John R. Pen-and-ink drawing from Oz, "He raised his gun, took aim and fired," $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>June 13 - New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Thompson, Kay. <i>Eloise at Christmastime.</i> New York: Random House, [1958]. First edition. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Taylor, Deems. <i>Walt Disney’s Fantasia.</i> New York: 1940. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. $1,500 to $2,500

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions