Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2006 Issue

A Bookseller Visiting Christie's and London

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Christie's of London


By Carl Burnham

During May, I visited London for the first time during an extended visit. The city of London is an experience unlike any other. The city is alive with activity as a thoroughly modern city, yet also holds a fascination with a rich history around every corner, and many world renowned museums.

I had the opportunity of touring the South Kensington showrooms of the famous auction house Christie's. Founded in London back in 1766, it was interesting to see where some of the auctions take place today. There were many artwork pieces on display by British artists. I also reviewed the collection of books and manuscripts that were coming up for auction, the Guy Curry Cricket Library, which was a collection of British books on the sport and a few memoirs. The actual sale prices realized were a good bit more than I anticipated, given the subject and condition. The sale is highlighted at www.americanaexchange.com/NewAE/auction/auctiondetail.asp?m=5&aid=1404">

Some of the more interesting items to be auctioned during May and June at Christie's include pop memorabilia and the private collection of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.

The pop memorabilia that was auctioned after this article was written included recordings, concert posters, guitars, clothing, and an extensive set of autographs by big names such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, and B.B. King. Several auctions included recordings of songs that have never been released.

A Gibson Junior model guitar was auctioned, autographed by B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Other guitars being auctioned were owned by Paul McCartney, the Doors, the Who, and Eric Clapton.

It should be no surprise that the highest rated auctions in the lot were all Beatles memorabilia. One item was a signed letter sent by John Lennon to his cousin, which detailed his "lost weekend" period back in 1974. The pre-auction estimate was £10,000-15,000 ($18,716 - 28,074). Another auction in the same estimate range includes "A Hard Day's Night" album which is signed by all four of the Beatles. Another was a rare album, the Beatles "White Album", marked as #5 on the front, with the estimate of £8,000-12,000 ($14,970 - 22,454).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.

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