• <b>Leland Little: Important Single-Owner Collection Featuring Works by Andrew Wyeth. December 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 6:</b> Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), <i>Bearded Man in a Velvet Cap with a Jewel Clasp,</i> 1637.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 6:</b> Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), <i>Christ Before Pilate: Large Plate,</i> 1635-1636.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 6:</b> Andrew Wyeth (PA, 1917-2009), <i>Breakup</i> with bronze life casts of the artist's hands, 1994.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 6:</b> Andrew Wyeth (PA, 1917-2009), <i>In the Orchard</i> Study, 1972.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies.</i> The second Impression. London, 1632. £120,000 to £180,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Das Römische Carneval.</i> Berlin and Gotha, 1789. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [SHAKESPEARE, William]. Manuscript part for a contemporary analogue to <i>Henry IV,</i> part I, n.p. [perhaps Oxford or London], n.d. [c.1580s – before c.1620]. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832). <i>Faust. Ein Fragment... Ächte Ausgabe.</i> Leipzig: Georg Joachim Göschen, 1790. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. As it is now Acted at his Highness the Duke of York's Theatre.</i> London, 1683. £60,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.</i> Leipzig: Weygand, 1774. £15,000 to £20,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2019 Issue

2018 - It Was a Very Good Year (for Books and Paper at Auction)

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An Aristophil sale generated the highest median prices for its seller.

Prices rose sharply at auction in 2018 for collectible books and paper. The median price was up 6% over 2017, reversing a trend of flat to down since 2014. Prices in 2018 were the fifth highest on record. Another 2% increase will be sufficient to take prices above three of those higher years - 2014, 2006, and 2005. However, it will take another 16% to bring them above the skyrocketing prices of 2007, the year before the recession of 2008. Ten years later and there is still ground to make up. That is a reflection of just how serious the recession was. The only longer gap came after the Great Depression. It took prices 20 years to recover to their previous high point in 1927.

 

We do not know how prices fared in private sales as those results are not publicly available. However, these auction numbers should provide some optimism for other booksellers, though some types of books and paper fare better than others. The most collectible material, another way of saying the most expensive material, continues to lead the way. Last month's review of the Top 500 most expensive items at auction revealed that the 500th most expensive item was 22% higher than the previous year, an indication of even greater increases at the top end of the market (click here to see the Top 500 of 2018).

 

Average price was also up, by 4.6% from $1,859 to $1,945. However, this figure is not as accurate a reflection of the overall market as median price, since average price can be distorted by a small number of very expensive items.

 

The number of lots offered and sold at auction also increased substantially in 2018. While increasing reliance on auctions has to some degree reflected a softness in the market the past few years, that was evidently not much of a problem in 2018. For last year, 479,122 lots were offered, while 358,924 were sold. The sell-through rate was 74.9%, up slightly from 74.7% the previous year. Those are strong sell-through numbers, as for most of the post-recession years, the sales percentage ranged from the upper 60s to low 70s. Sell-through percentage was able to inch up despite a 14.6% increase in the number of lots offered. Number of lots sold increased by 15%.

 

Looking at dollar volume of sales, 2018's numbers are even more impressive. They totaled $101,575,000 in 2018, up from $83,345,000 in 2017. That is an increase of 21.9% in dollars spent. The added volume of lots offered in no way discouraged collectors willingness to bid up the prices.

 

The price increases were also reflected in the price ranges. For 2018, 22% of lots sold for under $100 vs. 24% in 2017, 78% below $1,000 vs. 79% in 2017. At the other end, 22% sold for over $1,000 vs. 21% in 2017, while once again 6% were above $5,000, 3% above $10,000.

 

Despite the higher prices, the auction houses still tended to overestimate somewhat in terms of anticipated prices. While 54% achieved prices above the high estimate vs. 27% below the low estimate, that figure is misleading. It's necessary to add those lots that did not sell at all to those that sold below the low estimate to get an accurate picture. This shows that 45% of the lots sold below the low estimate vs. 40% that sold above the high estimate. Last year, the split was an even 44%-44%. The remainder either sold between the high and low estimate or were not estimated.

 

The fourth quarter of the year is generally the most prolific in terms of lots offered, with the second quarter the runner-up. That was again the case this year, with 30% of all lots offered in the fourth quarter, 29% in the second quarter. As usual, August was the slowest month, though May outpaced November this past year for the highest number, a reversal of the normal order. 12.3% of all lots were offered in May, 11.4% in November, while only 5.1% were offered in August, the height of summer vacations.

 

Honors for the highest median prices is usually divvied up between the various branches of Sotheby's and Christie's. This year would have been the same were it not for one exception. Drouot Estimations, not normally known for sales in the paper field, hosted part 5 of the Aristophil sale in June. The Aristophil sale is the outcome of the largest scandal ever seen in the field, an enormous pyramid scheme that bilked investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Aristophil was a French enterprise, run by Gérard Lhéritier, aka "the Madoff of Manuscripts." It was like a mutual fund, with 18,000 investors, most small, often putting up life savings, for a promise of a guaranteed 8% per year for five years. He used their money to amass the most amazing collection of autographs and manuscripts imaginable. He purchased several hundred million dollars worth. The problem was, his investors paid over a billion for their shares in them. Lhéritier justified the inflated prices because, by overpaying, investors were pushing up the (perceived) value of their manuscripts. Whenever an investor got cold feet and demanded his money back, Lhéritier paid it with funds received from new investors. Eventually, new funds were insufficient to meet demand, and like all Ponzi schemes, it fell apart. Now the collection is being sold, anticipated for around 15% of what Lhéritier's investors paid, which is still a lot of money, over an estimated 300 sales containing 130,000 manuscripts, in the coming decade. Drouot Estimations offered 96 of these items, of which 30 sold, for a median price of $18,850.

 

Runner-up was Christie's New York at $15,000, followed by Christie's London - South Kensington at $13,219. The other top priced auctions were Sotheby's, Bonhams, the Arader Galleries, and Ketterer Kunst. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 houses had median prices under $100, the lowest being $14 at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society sale, followed by the Alaska Auction at $15. There is still room for collectors of any size budget to enter the field.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations.<br>Online now through December 10
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> Adam Smith. <i>The Wealth of Nations</i>. First edition, 1776. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> William Shakespeare. <i>Comedies, Histories, Tragedies</i>. 1632, the Second Folio. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> The Saint Albans Chronicle.] <i>Here begynneth a shorte & a breue table on these cronycles.</i> Westminster : Wynkyn de Worde, 1497. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations.<br>Online now through December 10
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> E.H. Shepherd. “A Very Grand Thing – The Trouble at Owl’s House”. Original ink and watercolour. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> Charles Darwin. <i>On the Origin of Species</i>. First edition, 1859. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> William Blake. <i>Illustrations of the Book of Job.</i> 1825 [but 1826]. £10,000 to £15,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> London, 1673. FIRST SEPARATE AND FIRST QUARTO EDITION. THE CHARLTON HESTON COPY. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>In Our Time.</i> Paris, 1924. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> VERNE, JULES. <i>A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.</i> New York & London, 1872. FIRST EDITION, RARE AMERICAN ISSUE, with Scribner & Welford cancel title. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> PLATO. <i>Timaeus</i> [AND] <i>Critias</i> [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. A LANDMARK OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. $80,000 to $120,000.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> AN EARLY DUTCH POCKET GLOBE ATTRIBUTED TO WILLEM BLAEU, AFTER C.1618. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes (1596-1673). £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Theatrum Statuum Regiae Celsitudinis Sabaudiae Ducis, Pedemontii principis, ... pars prima, exhibens Pedemontium ...</i> Amsterdam, 1682. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> DUDLEY, Sir Robert, self-styled Duke of Northumberland and Earl of Warwick. <i>Arcano del Mare.</i> Florence, 1661. £500,000 to £700,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> The Mainz Psalter: <i>Psalterium Benedictinum cum canticis et hymnis,</i> for Bursfeld use. [Mainz:] Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 29 August 1459. £5,000 to £10,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b><br>Dr. Seuss, pen, ink & watercolor, calendar illustration, Thomas D. Murphy Company, 1937. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Georges Lepape, <i>Sur la Terrasse,</i> gouache & pencil, cover for <i>Vogue,</i> 1930. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Charles Dana Gibson, <i>The Coming Game, Yale vs. Vassar,</i> pen & ink, for <i>Life</i> magazine, 1895. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b><br>H.A. Rey, color pencil, charcoal, watercolor & gouache, for <i>Rafi et les 9 singes,</i> 1939. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Ernest H. Shepard, pen & ink, for Kenneth Grahame’s <i>Bertie’s Escapade,</i> 1949. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Charles Schulz, <i>The Biggest Star Measured So Far,</i> ink & wash, original <i>Peanuts</i> cartoon, published 1961. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Saul Steinberg, <i>12 Biographies, A to B,</i> pen & ink with collage, final illustration in his book <i>The Labyrinth,</i> 1960. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b><br>Jo Mielziner, <i>A Streetcar Named Desire,</i> watercolor, graphite & gouache, first color study for the award-winning 1947 production. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Nevermore,</i> watercolor & ink, for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1973. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>I Should Worry,</i> watercolor, gouache & graphite, cover for <i>Judge</i> magazine, 1914. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Edward Gorey, <i>Swan Lake, Hunters/Siegfried, Van Rothbart,</i> watercolor, pen & ink, costume designs, 1975. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Ludwig Bemelmans, <i>Sketch for Madeline,</i> gouache & ink. $6,000 to $9,000.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Melville (Herman). <i>White Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War,</i> 1st edition, London, 1850. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Bracton (Henry de). <i>De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae,</i> 1st edition, 1569. Ex libris Sir Daniel Dun (c.1545-1617). £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Edgar (Thomas). <i>The Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights,</i> 1st edition, 1632. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Donne (John). <i>Poems,</i> 3rd edition, 1639. Ex libris Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982). £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Mandeville (Bernard). <i>The Fable of the Bees,</i> 1st edition, 1714. Rare inspiration for the Wealth of Nations. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Honter (Johannes, & others). <i>De Cosmographiae rudimentis,</i> Basel, 1561. Ex libris Georg Joachim Rheticus (1514-1574). £5,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Lincoln (Abraham). Military commission signed, Washington, 1864, and related documents. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Faraday (Michael). Iron filings diagram on waxed blue paper, c.1850. £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Felixmüller (Conrad). <i>ABC,</i> 1st edition, Dresden, 1925. One of 10 hand-coloured copies. Ex libris Eduard Rosenbaum (1887-1979). £3,000 to £5,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Kelmscott Press. <i>The Order of Chivalry,</i> 1893. One of 225 copies; presentation copy from Sydney Cockerell. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Anna Livia Plurabelle,</i> 1st edition, New York, 1928. One of 50 special copies on green paper. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Orwell (George). <i>Homage to Catalonia,</i> 1st edition, 1938. £2,500 to £3,300
  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Archive of almost 500 Quaker letters written between leading members of the Society of Friends in Ireland between about 1770 and 1830. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Heraldic Grants to the Delaval Family of Northumberland Manuscripts: 9 May 1761. Patent of Stephen Martin Leake. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Unique Manuscript – Miniature Book by Seamus Heaney. Holograph manuscript copy by Heaney of his poem <i>Mad Sweeney’s Praise of Trees</i>. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Yeats, Mangan and John McCall, with an ALS Yeats [W.B.]. <i>The Wanderings of Ossian and other Poems.</i> London, 1889. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Toome</i>, illustrated by Jane Proctor. National College of Art and Design 1980. Extremely rare Heaney title limited to 15 copies. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Young (Ella). <i>Celtic Wonder Tales,</i> illustrated by Maud Gonne (four colour plates and other decorations). 1910. Signed by Gonne with an original sketch. €1,000 to €1,500.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> The Yeats Brothers “Jack & William” Yeats (Jack B.) RHA (1839-1922). An attractive small pencil portrait of his son Jack Yeats, aged perhaps 10-12, drawing of a bearded man on rear [with] a second drawing. €1,000 to €1500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> 18th c. Manuscript Volumes on French Peerage Manuscript: “Recueil de tous les actes concernant les Ducs & Pairs de France… Depuis l’an 900 jusqu’en 1660.” €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Churchill (Winston Spencer). <i>The River War, An Historical Account of The Reconquest of the Soudan.</i> 2 vols. roy 8vo L. 1899. First Edn. €800 to €1200.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Important Scientific Association Presentation Copy - Tyndall (John). <i>Heat considered as A Mode of Motion…</i> 1863. €600 to €800.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Receipt Signed by Chippewa Chiefs Document dated 24 May 1845 signed by five “Chippewa chiefs on the River Thames.” €400 to €600.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Bury (Lady Charlotte). <i>The Three Great Sanctuaries of Tuscany, Valombrosa, Camaldoli, Laverna.</i> Lg. oblong folio L. (J. Murray) 1833. First Edn. €250 to €350.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> ALBUM AMICORUM OF SCHELOMITH FLAUM. Autograph album containing drawings, autograph quotations and signatures from over 47 contributors, India, Europe, America, Israel and elsewhere, 1923–50. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> FLEMING, Ian (1908–1964). <i>Live and Let Die.</i> London: Jonathan Cape, 1954. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> HISTORY OF CINEMA. Animal Farm (1954), an animation archive from the Halas and Batchelor studios, [c.1954]. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> LE HAY, Jacques – [Charles de FERRIOL]. <i>Recueil de Cent Estampes representant differentes Nations du Levant...</i> Paris, 1714. [With:] <i>Explication des cents Estampes.</i> Paris, 1715. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> THE LAST JUDGEMENT, historiated initial 'A' on a leaf from an Antiphonal on vellum illuminated by Nikolaus Bertschi [Augsburg, first quarter 16th century]. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> VALTURIUS, Robertus (1413–1484). <i>De re militari.</i> [Verona:] Johannes Nicolai de Verona, 1472. £170,000 to £250,000.

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