• <center><b>Gonnelli<br>Auction 41<br>Books, Autographs & Manuscripts<br>March 21st-23rd 2023</b>
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> Nabokov, <i>Lolita,</i> 1955. First edition, mint copy. Starting price 1900€
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> Marinetti, <i>Zang Tumb Tuuum,</i> 1914. First edition. Starting price 1600€
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> A collection of <i>Playboy,</i> starting price from 20€
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> Kepler, <i>Dioptrice,</i> 1611. First edition. Starting price 9500€
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> Barbault, <i>Les plus beaux Monuments de Rome,</i> 1761-1766. Starting price 5500€
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> Watson, <i>Dendrologia Britannica,</i> 1825. Starting price 380€
  • <b><center>Koller Auctions<br>Books & Autographs<br>29 March 2023</b>
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> DADA - <i>Cabaret Voltaire.</i> A collection of artistic and literary contributions. Edited by Hugo Ball. CHF 5,000 to 8,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> EXPRESSIONISM - <i>Der Sturm.</i> Weekly magazine for culture and the arts. Almost complete suite from the years 1910 to 1932. CHF 20,000 to 30,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> LISBON EARTHQUAKE - <i>Augsburg collection of copper engravings of Lisbon. CHF 40,000 to 60,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Hamilton, William. <i>Campi Phlegraei. Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies as they have been communicated to the Royal Society of London.</i> Naples, 1776-1779. CHF 50,000 to 70,000.
    <b><center>Koller Auctions<br>Books & Autographs<br>29 March 2023</b>
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Leonardi, Domenico Felice. <i>Le Delizie della villa di Castellazzo descritte in verso dall'abbate Domenico Felice Leonardi lucchese fra gli Arcadi Ildosio Foloetico.</i> Milan, 1743. CHF 12,000 to 18,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Zwingli, Huldrych. <i>Von erkiesen und freyhait der speisen. Von ergernusz und Verbößerung. Ob man gewalt hab die speyß zu etlichen zeyten verbieten [...]</i>. CHF 2,500 to 4,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> HENDRIK VAN VULLENHOE, UMKREIS. Benedictional and other texts for Johannes von Venningen, Bishop of Basel. Latin manuscript on parchment. CHF 50,000 to 80,000.
    <b>Koller, Mar. 29:</b> Gujer, Hans Rudolf. Master typist's book by Hans Rudolf Gujer from Wermetschweil (Wermatswil). German manuscript on paper. CHF 3,000 to 5,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2021 Issue

Remembering an Excellent Effort to Understand the Market in 1978/1979


John F. Fleming

Overview of the American Auction Market by John F. Fleming


The auction sale of the greatest collection of Richard Wagner manuscripts was held at Christie’s, New  York, on October 27, 1978.  The manuscripts brought $1,260,355, and the sale was one of the greatest knockout sales of all times.  It contained the truest musical heritage of Germany ever offered for sale, and the cultural world knew that Germany had to, and would, buy the collection.


The complete manuscript (except the overtures) of Tannhauser (lot 105) brought the mere sum of $220,000; a series of fine autograph manuscripts of Rienzi (lot 98) fetched only $150,000, and Richard Wagner’s adaptation of Christoph Gluck’s Iphigenie (lot 107) sold for $100,000.  They were bought by Bayreuth of West Germany.  Any one of these world famous manuscripts could easily have sold for the sum total of the entire sale.


Two other sales made up Christie’s New York season.  One was held on November 17, and contained 502 lots that realized $559,429.  The high point of the sale was the fine copy of John Abbot’s and Sir James Edward Smith’s, The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia, 1797 (lot 103).


This unusually fine copy, with the plates printed on vellum, brought $34,000 – a worthy price.  The nine works of Edward Donovan, the ornithologist, realized over $17,000, a tremendous advance over the past few years.  The same could be said of Captain Thomas Brown’s Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucien Bonaparte (lot 156) at $19,000.  Other famous bird books in this sale failed to sell because of their poor condition.  The third sale of Christie’s, in April, was of mixed results.  The archives of St. John de Crevecoeur, an American Revolution patriot, 1738-1813, was mostly unsold, but strong interest in private presses was adequately proven by the high prices for some minor items printed on vellum.


Christie’s total for their American book sales this past season slightly exceeded $2 million, a figure less than that realized on the sale last season of the Gutenberg Bible, particularly if one discounts the lots unsold.  But the 1,076 lots fetched over $2 million, which is an average of over $2,000 a lot.


The auction season at Swann Galleries has been the most successful.  It’s $2.8  million gross is almost forty percent more than Christie’s, and more  than Sotheby’s $2.68 million  gross.  Its forty sales and 16,365 lots made it the largest auction outlet for the sale of collector books in the world.  Swann continues to offer more of the finer collected  books , and institutional sellers seem more attracted to this house.  On the whole, the trade is more at ease with the way it conducts its sales, and more important it doesn’t charge the ten percent premium to the buyer.  It has by far the most varied type of Collectibles offered in the book world, and one can see them reaching the highest stature in  the not too distant future.


The sales at Sotheby’s Park Bernet in New York were less diversified than those of their last season.  The  third part of the Sang Sale was again the high point of its season.  With one final session remaining, the collection will be the greatest sale of American historical documents and manuscripts ever sold at auction.  The great success of  this sale, as well as the Stein sale on the same subject, is due to the determination of Malcolm S. Forbes, Sr., who set out shortly before these sales to build a great collection of American historical manuscripts and succeeded by obtaining most of the key historical gems in three sales.  Forbes is a visionary molded of the same stuff of the businessman cum, collector giants of the past.


Sotheby’s sale of November 2 confirmed the market’s bullish trend in musical material.  A letter by Ludwig van Beethoven brought $18,500 (lot 34); a song by Franz Schubert sold for $18,000 (lot 69); and a letter by Edgar Allan Poe, which fetched $17,000 (lot 90), proves that he’s still alive and kicking.


Sotheby’s Park Bernet sold 1,571 lots and Christie’s sold 1,076 lots compared to Swann’s 16,365.  These figures raise tantalizing questions.  Is the market really drying up for quality material?  How can Swann, who doesn’t charge the ten percent premium, compete with the other houses?  It does, and it performs a service to the book collecting world that is far more important and influential than the other houses.


The Americana book auction market will always play second fiddle to the London auction market, where in due time practically all the great European, and some American, collections appear in the auction block.


In America the greatest number of private collections are given to cultural institutions.  Think of the excitement that would be generated by the sales of such collections as those of Rosenwald, Hofer, Mellon, the Hyde Johnsons, the Houghton Keats, Heineman, Miss Ball, Mrs. Cary, Miss Peck, Schaffner.  Maybe it is just as well that these collections are or will be part of the heritage of all Americans.


It’s a pity that the public success of the great auction houses is sustained by the ego and fame of the instant success of the buyers.  As Peter Wilson once said, “If you take the theatre out of auctions you have nothing left.”


John Fleming

President of John J. Fleming, Inc., New York


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Roman binding.- Pindar. <i>Olympia, Pythia, Nemea, Isthmia,</i> translated by Johannes Lonicer, contemporary Roman binding by Niccolo Franzese, Basel, 1535. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Raverat (Gwen). Comprehensive album of 530 wood engravings, circa 1909-1950. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Hemingway (Ernest). <i>Fiesta,</i> first English edition, first impression dust-jacket, 1927. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Casino Royale,</i> first edition, first impression, 1953. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>Great Expectations,</i> 3 vol., first edition, first impression, Chapman and Hall, 1861. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Campbell (Colen) & others. <i>Vitruvius Britannicus, or The British Architect...,</i> 5 vol., vol.1-3 later editions, vol.4 & 5 first editions, [?1731]-31-67-71. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Geography.- Mela (Pomponius). <i>Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis,</i> Venice, Franciscus Renner de Heilbronn, 1478. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> America.- [?Espinosa y Tello (José)]. <i>Relacion del Viage hecho por las Goletas Sutil y Mexicana en el Año de 1792,</i> 2 vol. including Atlas, first edition, Madrid, 1802. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Australasia.- Péron (Francois) and Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet. <i>Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes,</i> 5 vol. including Atlas, second edition, Paris, 1824. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>30th March 2023</b>
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Botany.- Curtis (William). <i>The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed,</i> 83 vol. in 62, 1794-1956. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum, Mar. 30:</b> Darwin (Charles).- Lecky (W.E.H.) <i>The Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe,</i> 2 vol., Darwin's copy with inscription "Charles Darwin 1865", pencil marginalia and pencil notes, 1865. £7,000 to £10,000.
  • <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript African Americana:<br>March 30, 2023</b>
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Victor H. Green, <i>The Negro Motorist Green Book,</i> New York, 1949. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Papers of pianist-composer Lawrence Brown relating to Paul Robeson & more, various places, 1925-54. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Freedom Summer archive of civil rights activist Karen Haberman Trusty, Atlanta & elsewhere, 1963-64. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> New York, 1933. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Archive of letters from the sculptor Richmond Barthé to a close Jamaican friend, various places, 1966-85. $25,000 to $35,000.
  • <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Autograph album leaf signed, 1826. €9,000 to €12,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Franz Kafka: Autograph letter unsigned, 1924. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Torquato Tasso: Autograph poem signed, no date. €12,000 to €16,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Charles Darwin: Autograph letter signed, 1866. €4,500 to €6,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Albert Einstein: Autograph letter signed, 1933. €6,000 to €8,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Heinrich Hertz: Autograph manuscript signed, 1889. €18,000 to €24,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Giambattista Bodoni: Autograph letter signed, 1787. €900 to €1,200.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Francisco de Goya: Autograph letter signed, 1789. €18,750 to €25,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Martin Luther: Notes from his desk, no date. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b><center>Stargardt Autographenhandlung<br>Autographs: Literature, Music, Art, Science, History, Theatre & Film<br>March 28, 2023</b>
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Ludwig van Beethoven: Autograph letter signed, 1816. €22,500 to €30,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Gustav Mahler: Foto portrait signed and annotated, 1907(?). €7,500 to €10,000.
    <b>Stargardt Autographenhandlung, Mar. 28:</b> Bed?ich Smetana: Autograph letter signed, 1883. €4,500 to €6,000.

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