AE Top 500 Auction Sales for 2006!
2. One of only 31 known copies, just two in private hands, of the first atlas, a 1477 printing of Ptolemy's Cosmographia, with 26 hand-colored maps, printed by Dominicus de Lapis in Bologne. $3,930,240.
1. What could be more suitable for number one than the greatest piece of English literature ever published, more collectible than any book except the Gutenberg Bible? This is the legendary 1623 first folio edition of William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Eighteen of the 36 plays in this book would have been lost forever were it not for this printing put together by a few of Shakespeare's friends after his death. Among the plays which would otherwise have been lost are Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, All's Well That Ends Well, The Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra, and Twelfth Night. This copy was obtained by Dr. Daniel Williams in the 17th century, and had resided in the library he formed since 1729. $5,166,720.
You may find the entire AE Top 500 at http://www.americanaexchange.com/newae/auction/stats/2006/2006aetop500.asp.
Footnote: What qualifies for a list of books and book-related ephemera? You might think this is easy to answer. It is not. Not even what constitutes a book is always obvious. Are loose portfolios of sheets, perhaps issued serially, maybe all at once, perhaps intended to be bound together, maybe optional, a book? The aforementioned Audubon folio was shipped out in separate sheets, for the purchaser to bind together (or not) himself. Was that a book? We think so. So how about a collection of prints from an artist, or a group of photographs? Is this a book?
The problem here is that if you start counting prints as related ephemera, the list quickly becomes dominated by "authors" such as Picasso and Rembrandt, or photographers Steiglitz and even Mapplethorpe. Shakespeare and Twain aren't even in the same league with Warhol. This isn't right. And yet, this was the year when the long-lost Blake artwork, intended for the 1808 edition of The Grave, was rediscovered after over a century and a half in hiding. While a Blake drawing may appear similar to one by Andy Warhol, we consider the former a piece of book-related ephemera, the latter not.