• <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits :<br>de Cervantès à Houellebecq<br>18 – 25 June</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> Jouve, Paul -- François-Louis Schmied -- Rudyard Kipling. <i>Le Livre de la Jungle,</i> 1919.<br>€ 80,000 to € 120,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> Cervantès Saavedra, Miguel de. <i>El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha.</i> Bruxelles, 1607.<br>€ 30,000 to € 50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> Buren, Daniel - Aimé Césaire. Cahier d'un retour au pays natal. Solstice, 2004. 1/140 ex. Avec 1/20 suites d'œuvres originales.<br>€ 4,000 to € 6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> [Musique] - Gioacchino Traversa. Six sonates à violon seul. [Vers 1770].<br>€ 3,000 to € 5,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Pablo Neruda, <i>Canto General,</i> first edition, signed by Neruda, artists Rivera & Siquieros, CDMX, 1950. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> deluxe limited issue, signed, London, 1936. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Sergei Rachmaninoff, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, 3 bars from <i>Piano Concerto No. 2,</i> 1933. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Thomas Edison, Typed Letter Signed, describing preparing first phonograph for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, 1922. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Robert Frost, <i>Collected Poems,</i> author’s presentation copy, signed with <i>Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening</i> inscribed, NY, 1930. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Thomas Mann, Autograph Letter Signed to his children, 3 pages on exiles, 1938. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Alighiero Boetti & Anne-Marie Sauzeau-Boetti, <i>Classifying the thousand longest rivers in the world,</i> limited edition, 1977. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Agnes Martin, <i>Paintings & Drawings,</i> complete set of 10 lithographs, 1990. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 17:</b> Abraham Lincoln, Autograph Letter Signed to Whig activist George W. Rives, Springfield, 1849. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Tolomeo, Claudio. <i>Cosmographia.</i> Ulma, Lienhart Holle, 16.07.1482.<br>€ 50.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Hondius, Henricus, & Johannes Janssonius. <i>Atlas novus, sive descriptio geographica totius orbis terrarum.</i> Amsterdam, Hondius-Janssonius, 1638. €30.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Castiglione, Baldassarre. <i>Il libro del cortegiano del conte Baldesar Castiglione.</i> Venice, eredi di Aldo, 1528. € 14.000+
    <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Bayer, Johann. <i>Uranometria, omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa.</i> Augusta, Christoph Mang, 1603.<br>€ 12.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> [Astronomy]. <i>[Scriptores Astronomici veteres].</i> Venezia, Aldo Manuzio, 1499.<br> € 7.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Aristophanes. <i>Aristofanous Komoidiai ennea. Aristophanis Comoediae novem.</i> Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1498. € 7.000+
    <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Herodotus. <i>Hirodotou logoi ennea [...] Herodoti libri novem quibus musarum indita sunt nomina.</i> Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1502. € 7.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Tory, Geoffroy. <i>L’art & science de la vraye proportion des lettres attiques, ou antiques.</i> Paris, Vincent Gaultherot, 1549. € 5.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Caterina da Siena. <i>Epistole devotissime de sancta Catharina da Siena.</i> Venice, Aldo Manuzio, 1500. € 4.500+
    <center><b>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>June 22, 2021</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> [Chess]. Gianuzio della Manzia, Orazio. <i>Libro nel quale si tratta della maniera di giuocar' a scacchi con alcuni sottilissimi partiti.</i> Torino, Antonio Bianchi, 1597. € 3.000+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> Newton, Isaac. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> Amsterdam, Compagnie di Amsterdam, 1714. €2.500+
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, June 22:</b> [Turkish Empire]. Ramberti, Benedetto. <i>Libri tre delle cose de Turchi.</i> Venice, eredi di Aldo, 1539. €1.500+
  • <b><center>Doyle<br>Fine Literature<br>Online Auction<br>June 8 to June 22</b>
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> CALDWELL, ERSKINE. <i>Tobacco Road,</i> First Edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> ELIOT, GEORGE. <i>Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life.</i> Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1871-72. First edition in book form. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> BYRON, GEORGE GORDON NOEL, LORD. <i>Don Juan.</i> London: the Thomas Davison; John Hunt; John and H.L. Hunt, 1819-24. First edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> [BURNEY, FRANCES]. <i>Evelina, Or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World.</i> London: T. Lowndes, 1778. First edition. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Fine Literature<br>Online Auction<br>June 8 to June 22</b>
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> SHEPARD, ERNEST H. Colored drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, in an autograph letter signed by Shepard. Dated February 29th, 1932. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> CARROLL, LEWIS (CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON). <i>The Nursery "Alice".</i> London: MacMillan, 1890. Second (first published) edition. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> DANA, RICHARD HENRY, Jr. <i>Two Years Before the Mast.</i> New York, 1840. First edition with an autograph letter signed by Dana laid-in. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Doyle, Fine Literature:</b> FINE BINDING-RIVIERE] HAZLITT, WILLIAM. <i>Liber Amoris: or, the New Pygmalion.</i> London: John Hunt, 1823. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2021 Issue

Prices at Auction: It Was a Very Good Year

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Sales are going up.

The year 2020 was a year like no other. The coronavirus pandemic was bad for way more businesses than it was good. Many went under. What would this mean for books and other paper collectibles? Would unemployment rates that soared higher than at any time since the Great Depression severely damage the trade, or would people stuck at home but not financially hurt exchange dollars usually spent on entertainment for building their collections? The experiences felt by many dealers was different, but for auctions of books and other paper collectibles, the answer was collectors repurposed those dollars rather than hording them. They collected. It was an exceptionally good year at auction.

 

The median or midpoint price of all lots sold was $285. In 2019, it was $275. That was an increase of 3.6%, more than erasing a 2.8% drop the year before. It was the highest since 2014 when it was $286. The average price declined from $1,834 to $1,684, but the average is highly affected by a few sales at the very top, rather than reflecting the overall market. As noted last month in our report on the Top 500 paid at auction, prices were soft at the very high end.

 

One might think the increase in prices was balanced by fewer sales being made but that was not the case. The sell-through rate was an astonishing 83%. That was up from 77% the previous year. In fact, that was the highest sell-through rate since we have been tracking these numbers in 2004 and it wasn't even close. This was the first time it has exceeded 80%. And, that was not because fewer items were offered. That number was also up, slightly, to 521,422, or 4,000 more than the prior year. The number of lots sold in 2020 was 430,544 vs. 395,690 in 2019. Interestingly, the total dollar volume of sales was exactly the same as 2019 - $725 million. What that represented was a decline in prices at the high end balanced by an increase in prices and sales of material at the lower and middle ranges. That is a change in what we have come to expect – strength at the top with weakening demand at the lower and middle prices. That was a surprising revelation.

 

We recognize that many dealers have not experienced such a good year as their model was not as amenable to a lock-down year. Auction sales have been evolving more and more toward an online, virtual model for years. Most sales are no longer made to buyers present in the auction rooms. Rather, they go to online and telephone bidders. On the other hand, many dealers have relied on in-person contact, either in their bookstores or through participation at live book fairs. Many found their stores forced to close during the pandemic, and even when allowed to be open, few people dared to venture out to public spaces, particularly among the more vulnerable older people who make up a large part of the collecting market. Meanwhile, live fairs came to a screeching halt after the New York fairs in early March and never resumed.

 

The reality is many dealers have been struggling for many years as the older models for book selling have not worked as well in the current market. Herein lies a potential long term bright spot for the dealers in the midst of this difficult year. One has been the emergence of paper collectibles other than books, such as manuscripts, photographs, prints, comic books, even baseball cards. Even among book buyers, more collectors are collecting a subject, rather than a type, that is, buying books, manuscripts, prints etc. pertaining to a favored subject, rather than buying only books or prints, etc. Many dealers are expanding their inventory to meet this changing demand, rather than limiting themselves to a single shrinking part of the market.

 

The other bright spot is the surprising success of the virtual book fairs. Reports from both dealers and fair organizers have mostly been very positive, and it appears that this new sales vehicle will remain even after the coronavirus is gone. There is something new under the sun in book and paper selling after all, and this one has some major advantages over the live book fair. It is easier to prepare for this type of fair and the cost of participation is much less for the dealer. Selling more is only one way of improving profitability. Reducing costs is the other.

 

Here are some more statistics from auction sales for 2020. As usual, more lots sold for over the auction houses' high estimate than below it, 59%-22%. However, that is a misleading number since lots that do not sell are really the same as selling for less than the low estimate. In 2019, 42.2% of all lots sold for over the highest estimate, while slightly more, 43.4%, either sold below the low estimate or did not sell at all. In 2020 there was a complete reversal. 48.6% of all lots offered sold above their high estimates while 35.5% sold under the low estimate or not at all. Apparently, even the auction houses did not anticipate such robust prices.

 

The busiest quarter was, as usual, the fourth, with 32.2% of the lots offered in the last quarter. That was up from 31% the prior year. In 2019, May was the busiest month, but for whatever reason, it was only the fifth most active month in 2020. Most likely, the auction houses were still adjusting to the pandemic. Most years, November is the busiest, but for the first time, the highest number of lots were offered in December, saving the most, if not the best, for last. 11.5% of all lots were offered in December compared to 5.3% in August, the slowest month. Nevertheless, August has been the fastest growing month in recent years as more houses try to reach buyers at a time of year when competition is not as great.

 

The highest average price went to the Arader Galleries in-house auctions at $28,912 per lot. Next came Christie's King Street London at $23,418, followed by Christie's New York and Sotheby's New York, both at $21,000-plus. These numbers were mostly down, reflective of some softness at the top. At the other end of the scale, there are still bargains available in the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society sales with an average of $53 per lot, and Alaska Auction at $66. Those who collect on a limited budget will be pleased that 16 houses had median prices under $100.

 

As for who sold (and offered) the most lots it again was not close. That went to Heritage Auction, which sold 179,915 lots. Only two others were over 10,000, Catawiki with 15,618 and RR Auction with 10,730. Trilium, Forum, Holabird Kagin, and PBA all had over 9,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:<br>Sales Exhibition Catalogue 47<br>Part II<br>The Arctic Exploration and the Search for a Northeast Passage</b>
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> (C. PTOLEMY) – NICOLAUS GERMANUS DONIS. “Tabula Moderna Prussie Livonie Norbegie Et Gottie.” Ulm, 1486. The first printed map of Scandinavia and the North in untouched contemporary color.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> JAN HUYGEN VAN LINSCHOTEN. “Voyasie, ofte Schip.vaert...van by Noorden om langes Noorwegen de Noordt-Caep, Laplandt, Vinlandt, ruslandt, de Witte Zee, de Kusten van Kandenoes, Swetenoes, Pitzora…” Amsterdam, 1624.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> FRIDTJOF NANSEN/SIGURD SCOTT-HANSEN. “Lóitnant Johansen fra 86°.14’.” A sensational documentation map from one of the most famous and important polar expeditions in the world: “The Fram Expedition 1893 – 1896.”
    <center><b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:<br>Sales Exhibition Catalogue 47<br>Part II<br>The Arctic Exploration and the Search for a Northeast Passage</b>
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> JOSEPH PAUL GAIMARD. “Voyage de la Commision scientific du Nord , en Scandinavie, en Laponie, au Spitsberg et aux Feröe pendant les années 1838, 1839 et 1840, sur la corvette La Recherche...M. Paul Gaimard”.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> PHILIPP JOHANN VON STRAHLENBERG. “Nova Descriptio Geographica Tattariae Magnae Tam Orientalis Quam Occidentalis In Particularibus…” Stockholm – Berlin (1730). The original Swedish edition.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> FREDERICK DE WIT. “Totius Europa Littora Novissime edita.” Contemporary hand-coloured engraving, Amsterdam c. 1675 – 80.
  • <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [CIVIL WAR] -- [SHERIDAN, Philip Henry]. Personal headquarters flag of Philip Henry Sheridan used when he led the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Spring - Summer 1862. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY]. Half plate daguerreotype of firefighter Walter Van Erven Dorens. [San Francisco]: n.p., [ca 1854-1856]. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [LINCOLNIANA]. Abraham Lincoln banner possibly made for the 1864 presidential campaign. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [REVOLUTIONARY WAR - CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. [HOLTEN, Dr. Samuel]. An archive of letters related to Danvers, Massachusetts, physician and statesman Dr. Samuel Holten. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD]. CARBUTT, John, photographer. Exceptional collection of 27 stereoviews from the series, "Excursion to the 100th Meridian, October 1866." Chicago, [1866]. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [ALASKAN GOLD RUSH]. William Steele West and family, extensive archive of photographs, diaries, correspondence, and personal items. [Ca 19th - 20th century]. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [TAYLOR, Zachary]. Quarter plate daguerreotype featuring the 12th President of the United States. N.p.: n.p., [ca 1845]. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [WASHINGTON, George]. Signed Society of the Cincinnati document. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph endorsement signed ("A. Lincoln"), as President. [Washington], 29 September 1862. 1 page, 4to, old creases. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th. Jefferson"), as United States President, to Robert Patterson. Washington DC, 2 July 1805. 1 page, 4to, evenly toned, small tear from seal. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY] -- [ALCOTT, Elizabeth Sewall]. Ninth plate ruby ambrotype attributed to Elizabeth Sewall Alcott. N.p., [ca 1856-1857]. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [WESTERN AMERICANA]. RUSSELL, Andrew Joseph, photographer. <i>Salt Lake City, From the Top of the Tabernacle.</i> [1869]
  • <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> AN EXTRAORDINARILY FINE COPY OF “GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.” SWIFT, JONATHAN. 1667-1745. London: Benj. Motte, 1726. US$ 80,000 - 120,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> PALAFOX Y MENDOXA, JUAN DE. 1600-1659. <i>[Virtudes del Indio....]</i> US$ 80,000 - 120,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> ORIGINAL HARRY HOUDINI TYPED MANUSCRIPT. <i>A Magician Among the Spirits.</i> Autograph corrections by Houdini throughout, c.1923-1926.<br>US$ 20,000 - 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE OF THE RARE HARDCOVER EDITION ROWLING, J.K. <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.</i> London: Bloomsbury, 1997. US$ 30,000 - 50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 17:</b> FIRST APPEARANCE IN AMERICA OF MUSIC FOR "(AMERICA) MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE." LYON, JAMES. 1735–1794. <i>Urania.</i> Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1761. US$ 20,000 - 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). Cañon de Chelley, 1904. Oversized orotone, 17 x 22in in original Curtis Studio frame. US$ 30,000 - 50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). 26 cyanotypes, featuring images of Cheyenne tribes from Volume VI of <i>North American Indian,</i> c.1907, made by Curtis in the field. US$ 30,000 - 50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). The Vanishing Race, 1904. Oversized orotone, 18 x 24in in original Curtis Studio frame. US$ 20,000 - 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). Autograph Logs and Journals from his 1927 Alaska Expedition. US$ 7,000 - 9,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> A ONE SHEET POSTER OF <i>IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD HUNTERS.</i> World Film Corporation, 1914. US$ 4,000 - 6,000

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