Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2018 Issue

Mar. 9: Extraordinary Books & Manuscripts at Bonhams

Highlights from Bonhams' March 9 sale

Every month I cover a handful of sales for Rare Book Monthly, and “Fine Books and Manuscripts” might be the most commonly used sale title I’ve come across. This month, however, Bonhams has upped the naming ante with their sale of Extraordinary Books and Manuscripts. Their offering is indeed extraordinary. Thirty-three lots make up the March 9th sale in New York, and 40% carry high estimates of six digits. The auction is quite varied, too, with cartographic, religious, scientific, musical, and manuscript material all providing shining highlights. Here are some of the best of them.

 

Though it is preceded by one older work, the sale’s high estimate belongs to something that is nonetheless incunabula. Claudius Ptolemaeus’ third edition (1478) of Cosmographia, translated by Jacobus Angelus and edited by Domitius Calderinus, is one of the rarest editions bearing the title and is cited as the edition that “far outshone any other fifteenth century edition” by The World Encompassed. It is one of the earliest printed books to contain copper-engraved illustrations, and it carries extra weight being the edition used by Columbus prior to his voyage of discovery to the Americas. The volume is incredibly rare—one other copy has come to auction in the last hundred years. This copy includes 27 copper-engraved maps and 23 additional engraved maps bound in at the end from the 1541 Vienna edition. Ptolemy’s work does not come cheaply; as the sale’s second lot, it is estimated $600,000 to $800,000. Such is the price for a once in a century opportunity.

 

Two lots share the second highest estimates of the sale, and they are quite different from one another. The sale’s oldest item, a 1468 second edition of Saint Aurelius Augustinus’ De Civitate Dei, is the author’s magnum opus and one of Rome’s first printed books and delves into matters religious, historical, and philosophical. The other is a manuscript written over 200 years later by Sir Isaac Newton in which he details how to make the philosopher’s stone. Augustinus opens the sale as the first lot, while Newton appears as lot 6. Both are estimated $200,000 to $300,000.

 

Music is another category well represented in the sale. An autograph manuscript of Beethoven, being a sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, “Sunset” Op. 108 no. 2 is available as lot 14, listed for $80,000 to $120,000. Three autograph manuscripts from Wagner, lots 20 through 22, carry estimates varying from $40,000 to $60,000 up to $150,000 to $200,000. And if a more tangible piece of music is your desire, a violin belonging to Einstein is also included in the sale as lot 26 for an estimated $100,000 to $150,000.

 

Not every item carries an estimate of $50,000+. Lot 17 is a document signed by Lincoln as President ($4,000 to $6,000) and the original transmission print on ferrotyped paper of the iconic “The Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima” is estimated $12,000 to $18,000 as lot 28.

 

Bonhams’ sale of Extraordinary Books and Manuscripts takes place Friday, March 9th in New York at 10 am eastern standard time. Bidding is available through the expected avenues: in person, absentee, telephone, and online. Registration prior to the sale is required. The sale’s catalog is vewiable on Bonhams’ website 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
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

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