By Bruce McKinney
If summer is a receding memory then the books, manuscripts and ephemera auction season must be upon us. A glance at the October auction calendar confirms it. As of September 27th 52 sales are scheduled and another 10 or so expected to post their schedules shortly. In 2005 and 2006 more than 25,000 lots were offered in the 10th month. If historical form holds, 75% of the lots posted this year will sell for $35,000,000 to $50,000,000. Today, in the world of rare books, this is where the heavy lifting takes place.
From year over year comparisons various trends emerge. Perhaps the most telling is the lead-time to sale index. Four years ago, the internet was for most auction houses a non-event or even an after-thought. Less material was posted and what was put up was typically posted less than a week ahead of sale. Today the average lead-time to sale is double that and increasing. Time favors consignors and auction houses and they are posting earlier to increase both audience and realizations. Both Sotheby’s and Christies, who have dominated the rooms for years, often post their sales almost a month ahead. Bonhams, PBA and Bloomsbury also consistently post well ahead.
This October the auction schedule is deep and still building as we go to press. I'll discuss a handful of the upcoming sales and suggest you use the
at the top of our pages to search for any term or terms that if present in the full text descriptions of upcoming lots may be of interest to you personally. You never know when and where your ship will come in. Among random searches I ran this afternoon Iowa finds 9, Mark Twain 13, postcard 10, Lincoln 19, and election 12. Shakespeare finds 36, Whitman 15, Churchill 27, Maugham 5, and Cervantes 5. Almost every term and phrase finds some matches and new material is always appearing and disappearing. It's different every day. Over the past twelve months we covered more than 200,000 lots encompassing more than half a million items.
During the first week of October there are 10 sales: Bruun Rasmussen, Dominic Winter, Waverly, Bloomsbury [London], Samuel Freeman, Christies, Sothebys, Clars, JMW and Alain & Evelyne Morel de Westgaver. In the second week the number declines to 5: Bonhams, New England Book, Swann, PBA and Johns' Western Gallery. In the third week there are 22 sales, 11 sales in week 4 and 6 more in the final 3 days. Other sales, like dandelions, will appear at random, be celebrated for a moment and disappear into history. When the month is over perhaps 60 auctions will have come and gone.
Side by side, Friday to Saturday, October 4th to the 5th there is Christie's Anatomy as Art: The Dean Edell Collection with a copy of Vesalius' 1543 "De humani corporis fabrica libri septem" estimated $200,000 to $300,000 followed on Saturday by the sale at JMW Auction Gallery in Kingston, New York, of the entire 90,000 item inventory of the Zobel Book Service, sold as a single lot, with a starting bid of $1,000. On Sunday Clars Auction Gallery of Oakland, California disperses an interesting private collection of books that will be visible on line shortly. A nice set of Marshall's Life of Washington, [first French edition], with the map volume is one of the items offered.