Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2016 Issue

Valentine's Day: Collectors to take their wives and husbands to Pasadena?

Highlight items from Bonhams' sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts

Serious book collectors may be in a bit of a conundrum this February. From what I’ve heard from my Dad Bruce, it’s pretty rare for there to be a book collecting couple. Usually, one person is the collector, while their partner wonders when the collection will be complete and the madness over. So for Valentine’s Day this year, collectors in relationships may have to make a choice, or do a lot of convincing, because the 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair takes place the same weekend, February 12th through the 14th in Pasadena. And on top of that, Bonhams is hosting a sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts. With 173 lots of material ranging from the 12th century to the 20th, and several landmark lots, collectors may find themselves pitching the romantic elements of southern California to their significant others in order to attend the fair and the auction.

For a sale entitled Fine Books and Manuscripts, it’s a little ironic that the item with the highest estimate of the sale is not really a book or even printed. Dr. Kary Mullis’ 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (awarded for his invention of the Polymerase Chain Reaction) is said item, and while it does come with his printed diploma, as well as a signed copy of Mullis’ Nobel lecture, typed letters signed by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and five photographs, the Nobel medal itself, struck in 18 carat gold and plated in 24 carat gold, is the centerpiece of the lot. Nobel Prizes are the most prestigious in whichever category they are awarded, and when offered at auction, they do not come cheaply. This one is estimated $450,000 – 550,000.

However, there are indeed lots made up entirely of printed material available for sale. Lot 80, for example, is the first edition and first issue of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The enormity of the impact of Darwin’s thinking and writing cannot be understated as he changed (most of) mankind’s perspective on natural history permanently. Darwin’s masterpiece is estimated $70,000 – 90,000.

Another equally famous first edition will also be for sale. Joyce’s Ulysses, widely regarded as one of, if not the most important work in modernist literature, and still universally read, studied and analyzed in higher education today, appears at auction not infrequently. However, first editions are significantly rarer, and presentation copies even more so. This copy is number 282 of 750, and bears Joyce’s inscription to Lewis Galantiere, an American translator of French literature, writer, playwright, and journalist. This is also the earliest known presentation copy of Ulysses after the one given to Nora Joyce on the day of publication. The inscription to Galantiere is dated nine days later. Ulysses is estimated $40,000 – 60,000.

The last item I want to highlight is a fine subscriber’s copy of McKenney and Hall’s seminal work History of the Indian Tribes of North America. This is material I have looked over myself, as my Dad Bruce is a former owner (his copy sold in his auction of The American Experience in 2010). Digital images of these prints, of which there are 120, do not do them justice, and I highly recommend previewing the auction in person either in San Francisco (Feb. 4th-6th) or in Pasadena (Feb. 11th-14th). In terms of native American content, McKenney and Hall are unsurpassed. This copy, lot 155, is estimated $40,000 – 60,000.

All 173 lots of the sale are viewable online on Bonhams' website. Bidding is available via the standard methods—live, phone, fax, internet. If you plan on bidding, please register here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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