Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2009 Issue

Book Auctions in the Bay Area

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PBA has a strong internet presence


Do you think that life is complex? Lot 1082 may provide clarity. It's the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, one of the original run of 1,000 copies printed in Paris. This is the book that everyone recommends and no one reads. To warm up to the subject first give yourself Richard Ellman's biography of the master - James Joyce. It is an oldish book [printed in 1959] but a spectacular account after which you will want the first edition of Joyce's masterpiece. It's estimated $20,000 to $30,000.

For photography collectors there are 26 early photographs. They begin at 1161 and run intermittently through to 1199. Two are by Eadweard Muybridge, one by Frederick Starr and more than 20 by Carleton Watkins. The subject is nature.

The PBA sale on Thursday February 19th offers some interesting material as well and resolves the age-old question "what happened to the title page?" We'll start by answering this question. Anyone who spends time around old books runs into copies that lack title pages. Have you ever wondered where they went? Lot 57 is a collection of approximately 330 engraved title-pages, dedication leaves, etc. Edward Scissorhands' great, great, great grandfather it turns out was a perverse collector. Well, we know that some people these days cut out maps. Four hundred years ago it was title pages. For an estimated $1,000 to $1,500 you can have hundreds of old guilt-free examples.

If you would like a second copy of Ulysses lot 91 is the Limited Editions Club edition. It was printed in 1935, illustrated, and signed by Henri Matisse. It will still be a difficult book to understand but this one has pictures.

You can drink the 100 year old cognac or sip the first pressing of the grape. Among books "A Confederacy of Dunces," first printed in 1980, although quite new, is already a classic of perverse wisdom. You can find a reader's copy for a few bucks. The very first pressing is estimated $2,000 to $3,000. Read the $2 copy for pleasure. If it connects then buy the "is it really a first edition" copy. It is and it's lot 141.

Lot 153 is another Pulitzer prize winner: A Streetcar Named Desire. A copy of the first edition, first state is also estimated $2,000 to $3,000. It's a chance to connect with your inner Blanche, Mitch or both.

If the economic downturn, swoon and collapse has you in the mood for something darker consider lot 28, The Memoir of Robert Blincoe, An Orphan Boy, Sent from the Workhouse of St. Pancras, London, at Seven Years of Age. This opaque story predates Upton Sinclair's The Jungle [1906] by 84 years but tells a similarly grim tale.

So there you have it, an amuse bouche to encourage you to click the links at the end of this article to peruse the full catalogues of these sales. The book world is sitting on the edge of their collective chairs as a world of Robert Blincoes ponder their fate. Are we all going to the workhouse?

These auction houses have pared the reserves. They have prepared first-rate catalogues. They will be courteous and answer every question and have only one in return. Will you stay the course and be a bidder? These two sales make it worth your while to venture in.

Bonhams & Butterfields February 15th.

Pacific Book Auctions February 19th.

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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