Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2008 Issue

Announcing The AE Top 500 Prices at Auction for 2007

Magnasale

Sotheby's auctions a Magna Carta (photo courtesy of Sotheby's).


By Michael Stillman

With the close of another year, it is time to look back at the highest priced books and related ephemera at auction last year. We have scoured the results at all of the major auction houses and a great many smaller ones to come up with the AE 500 top prices at auction for 2007.

Five items made it into the million-dollar category in 2007, down from seven the previous year. However, at the top, number one exceeded last year's top price of just over $5 million by fourfold. Particularly interesting was the price at the bottom of the list -- number 500. That figure was $72,000, almost a 20% increase from the $60,192 price of number 500 in 2006. That is a good sign that prices remain very strong at the top end of the book market.

Before running down the top 10, we will mention a few of the other interesting items which made it into the AE 500. A link to the complete Top 500 can be found at the end of this list.

Among those tied at #500 were a first edition King James Bible, the first printing of a portion of the Book of Mormon in the Reflector newspaper, and a Religious Discourse Delivered in the Synagogue in this City [New York]...26th November, 1789, supporting George Washington's call for a day of thanksgiving. Equal opportunity is provided all faiths. $72,000.

At 463 is a portrait of a very young (circa 1858) John D. Rockefeller, when he was working as a bookkeeper in Cleveland, before striking out on his own in the oil business. $77,350. Number 462 is a huge collection of 550 manuscript documents from the Bernard family of Louisiana from 1780-1880. The family patriarch first came to America to engage in the slave trade, and the next generations used slaves to operate their lumber mill as well as perform domestic duties. $77,675.

At 284 is a copy of the Shakespeare Second Folio, probably the only privately held one in Australia, though it made it there through the famed American bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1935. $128,150. Number 243 is an archive of items, including a lock of hair, from South American revolutionary Che Guevara, from the CIA agent who buried him. $119,500. For those who prefer Yankee imperialists, number 235 is a dual signed photograph of New York Yankee greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. $120,000.

Number 152 is one of only two manuscript letters from William Henry Harrison as President known to exist. There are so few because he died a month into office. $167,300. Tied at 142 are a protested lack of personal ambition in a letter by Oliver Cromwell to his son's father-in-law and an autographed letter from Calvin concerning an attempted suicide. $171,444. Number 118 is something of a pricing standard for Americana -- a first edition "Lewis and Clark" -- and it bodes well. $193,000. Another copy, number 72, sold for $288,000. Number 43 is Navigator Theodore Van Kirk's log from the Enola Gay as they flew over and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. $358,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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