Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2008 Issue

Announcing The AE Top 500 Prices at Auction for 2007

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

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

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