Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2019 Issue

Eric Caren and Bonhams: a fresh approach to auctions

Some of the most valuable material in the sale, including Einstein's "God" letter

Among the more than a thousand auctions in the books, manuscripts, maps, and ephemera auctions that take place every year there are some that are more important than others.  Eric Caren’s 7th auction in the series, “How History Unfolds on Paper”, is one of the important ones and will be held at Bonhams in New York over the weekend of the ABAA New York Book Fair.  Eric’s sales, now in their 4th year, have been ground-breaking for they are principally printed, manuscript, and photographic paper Americana, and a few European and UK items.  Such sales are highly unusual and, as his previous sales have shown, important events in the great awakening to ephemera.  Such material, not-so-long ago, received little attention and now warrants the same attention long given to rare books, manuscripts, and maps.

 

Eric rarely moves in one direction when two or more are possible so he is also an early adaptor and this is the first experience for Bonhams, in conducting an on-line only sale.  Sotheby’s conducted three such sales last year and Christie’s quickly followed.  Such sales look to be the new norm within 5 years.

 

The on-line presentation is fine but, if you have the option, also request the printed catalogue because the method in Eric’s madness is quite apparent.

 

So what’s available?  For the answer let’s go to the official news release and then, at the end of this article click through to see the entire catalogue.

 

For those considering to bid contacting Bonhams early is useful.  They are thorough so a little extra time is suggested.

 

 

New York- Bonhams announces the seventh installment collector Eric C. Caren's voluminous collection of How History Unfolds on Paper, an online-only sale from March 6-14, with an exhibition in the New York galleries March 7-11. The collection begins in the 17th century and covers 4 centuries of American and world history, focusing primarily on letters, documents, and printed media. 

 

Highlighting the sale is an Albert Einstein letter written to a young U.S. Naval Officer near the end of World War II (estimate: $100,000-200,000). The young man had written to Einstein relaying a conversation he'd had with a Jesuit priest who claimed he had convinced the scientist to believe in a "supreme intellect which governs the universe."  Rather than his usual cagey response, Einstein admits that he has always been an atheist, but that the world is indeed wondrous: "We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of the world--as far as we can grasp it.  And that is all."  The letter includes its original envelope, and copies of the original outgoing correspondence.

From America's pre-Revolutionary War period, two highlights include examples of patriot Paul Revere's artwork: a first issue of his famous engraving of Boston Harbor, published in a 1770 Boston almanac (estimate: $15,000-25,000); and a rare variant of his even more famous engraving of the Boston Massacre showing British soldiers firing on American colonists (estimate: $8,000-12,000).

 

An important Revolutionary War highlight is the military commission appointing Benjamin Lincoln as Major General of the Army of the United States, signed by John Hancock as President of the Continental Congress (estimate: $60,000-90,000). Issued in February 1777, the appointment was signed at Baltimore during the brief window of time that city served as the nation's capital.  Interestingly, this appointment as Major General (one of 5 suggested by George Washington), provoked jealousy and outrage in Benedict Arnold, who was not one of the 5 promoted, and who nursed a grudge which likely led him to betray his country a short while later.

 

Further highlights include reportage of Alexander Hamilton's duel with Aaron Burr, providing both an account of the tragic event and printing the correspondence exchanged between the two in the run up. Most devastatingly for Burr, the paper prints Hamilton's message to his family, in which he announces his intention to throw away his shot (and make Burr look the villain) (estimate: $3,000-5000); two remarkable broadsides from the War of 1812: a Baltimore paper's first-hand account of the bombardment of Fort McHenry (estimate: $8,000-12,000), and a rare, early printing of the full lyrics of the "Star Spangled Banner" (estimate: $8,000-12,000).

 

The sale also offers several items of Mormon interest, including a fine copy of the 1830 first edition of the Book of Mormon (estimate: $40,000-60,000), and an 1844 letter from an early church member relaying a first-hand account of Joseph Smith's last words to his flock before his death at the hands of a mob (estimate: $10,000-15,000).

From the realm of sports, the collection offers the earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth (estimate: $6,000-9,000). In an April 4, 1914 issue of the Baltimore News, as the Babe's first professional season with the Orioles got underway, the newspaper emphasized the young player's prowess as a pitcher, not a batter, reporting that the "St. Mary's schoolboy is going to do plenty of twirling."  Not long after this story appeared, Ruth was traded to the Red Sox, who would infamously trade him to the Yankees after only 2 years.

 

The 8th "How History Unfolds on Paper" auction of paper Americana from Eric Caren's collection will be at Heritage in Dallas, in the fall. 

 

Link to sale

 

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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