This month, Neal Auction Company, an auction house based in New Orleans and operating since 1983, is hosting its annual Louisiana Purchase Auction. While not a company focused solely on rare books, maps, manuscripts, and ephemera, their material under the Louisiana Purchase moniker do contain selections of these categories. Since 2010, Rare Book Hub has added Neal Auction Company’s results to its Rare Book Transaction History, with 2,591 lots searchable today.
This year’s Louisiana Purchase Auction takes place over three days, December 2, 3, and 4, 2016, though bidding is already underway online, and the sale contains 1,229 lots total. A large majority of these items are not print material or works on paper. Rather, virtually any type of item from American history you can think of is likely to be found here: old weapons, musical instruments (the item with the single highest estimate in the entire sale is a snare drum that was used during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, the final battle of the War of 1812), furniture, jewelry, and clocks are just a few things you can find for sale. Fortunately, for purveyors of rare books, Neal Auction Company allows you to look at specific types of material, like books and maps.
American maps and engravings by Frenchmen are a strong point for the Louisiana Purchase Auction. The Gaspar Cusachs Collection, which has been on loan to the Louisiana State Museum, is part of the sale, and specifically the engravings of Georges Henri Collot are heavily featured. Collot was a French military officer best known for his expedition down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in 1796. His published account of the expedition, entitled Voyage dans l'Amérique Septentrionale, is exceptionally rare and is valued for the numerous engraved maps and engravings contained within. The complete production is not for sale here; instead many of the individual maps and engravings are offered. Collot’s materials begin with lot 11 and continue through lot 32 with estimates ranging from $4,000 – 6,000 on the high end to $300 – 500 on the low. Another Frenchman’s map of the Mississippi River also bears mentioning, being Nicolas de Fer’s “Partie Meridionale de la Rivere de Missisipi, et ses Environs, dans l’Amerique Septentrionale” from 1718. Listed as lot 451, it carries an estimate of $6,000 – 9,000.
Natural history is also a subject well represented in the sale. Ironically, two of the higher valued lots are recent publications, from 1999 and 2006. Both are limited edition reprintings of Audubon, lot 468 entitled Audubon’s Fifty Best from the Original Havell Engravings of the Birds of America (1999), and lot 469 The New York Historical Society Edition of Audubon’s Fifty Best Watercolors from the Original Watercolors Preparatory for Birds of America (2006). The copy of the 1999 publication is #1 of an edition limited to 150, and the 2006 publication is #26 of 200. Both feature their 50 prints on cotton, either on the English Somerset velvet or archival types.
The New York Historical Society edition includes a custom mahogany floor stand, making it quite the display piece. Both lots 468 and 469 are estimated at $5,000 – 7,000 each. McKenney & Hall’s The History of the Indian Tribes of North America is a book I grew up sharing a roof with as it was a part of my father’s collection that sold at Bonhams in 2010, and I can personally attest to the magnificence of that work. The entire production is not available in this sale, but a group of twelve hand-colored lithographs from it are offered as lot 470 (est. $1,500 – 2,500).
Neal Auction Company’s Louisiana Purchase Auction will be held live December 2, 3, and 4, 2016 in New Orleans. Bidding is available via the expected methods: in person, telephone, absentee, and online. As stated before, online bidding is live now through both LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable. All lots for the sales are viewable on those sites, but I recommend using Neal Auction’s own catalog as it allows browsing by category. This feature is available here—look at the top of the page for “Browse By Lot Number” and “Browse By Category.”