Thursday, December 03, 2009

Auction Report: Christie's 12/4 Preview

Two major sales at Christie's New York tomorrow could bring in some pretty spectacular results. Just a very brief preview of the anticipated high spots, and I'll chime in as the hammer comes down tomorrow (or as soon thereafter as I'm able):

First up, at 10 a.m. will be the William E. Self Library of Important English and American Literature. Fourteen lots (of 197) have presale estimates of $100,000 or more.

The expected big seller is Lot 155, one of the twelve (yes, twelve) copies known of Poe's first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems (Boston: Calvin F.S. Thomas, 1827). This is one of only two copies still in private hands, and one of seven still in the original wrappers. Known as the "black tulip" of American literature, this copy is expected to fetch between $500,000 and $700,000 tomorrow. The sale description also includes a handy census of known copies.

A spectacular presentation copy, Lot 51, is also expected to sell well. It's Hans Christian Andersen's copy of Charles Dickens' The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (London: Chapman and Hall, 1845). The estimate is $200,000-300,000.

More Dickens and Poe make up the expected big sellers, along with a first edition of Darwin's Origin (London: Murray, 1859). That, Lot 40, is estimated at $80,000-120,000.

An AP story focuses on the Tamerlane, but touches on other aspects of the sale and of Mr. Self's collection.

In the afternoon session, beginning at 2 p.m., 257 lots of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, Including America go on the block. Ten lots are estimated at more than $100,000.

The big seller is expected to be the very last lot of the day. Lot 257, called the "most important George Washington letter ever to come to auction," is a four-page letter of 9 November 1787 by Washington to his nephew Bushrod, in which the future first president makes the case for ratification of the Constitution. The letter has been in the possession of Washington family members. It is expected that this letter could set a record for a Washington letter (set in 2002 with a $834,500 sale).

Other major lots in Friday's sale include:

- Lot 95, the manuscript (on index cards) of Vladimir Nabokov's unfinished novel The Original of Laura, published this fall by Knopf. This is the first Nabokov manuscript ever at auction, and presale estimates are set at $400,000-600,000.

- Lot 222, a Stone engraving on parchment of the Declaration of Independence (1823). Est. $300,000-500,000.

- Lots 255 & 256, two additional George Washington autograph letters (also to Bushrod Washington), each estimated at $200,000-300,000.

- Lot 76, a signed limited edition of Ulysses (Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922), also estimated at $200,000-300,000.

- Lot 164, a copy of the second folio edition of Audubon's Birds of America (New York: Roe Lockwood & Son, 1860). Estimated at $150,000-200,000.

- Lot 174, a complete (20-volume) set of the text of Edward Curtis' The North American Indian ([Cambridge, MA], 1907-1930), along with the scarce prospectus, est. $100,000-150,000.

- And another Darwin: Lot 175, a first edition presentation copy of Origin from Darwin to French zoologist Henri Milne-Edwards. It's also estimated at $100,000-150,000.

Tomorrow promises to be very exciting; these lots are only just the tip of the very interesting iceberg in this pair of sales. Both catalogs are a recommended browse, and stay tuned for updates tomorrow!

1 comment:

Poe said...

You are cordially invited to a free exhibition
at the Boston Public Library

The Raven in the Frog Pond:
Edgar Allan Poe & the City of Boston

December 17, 2009 - March 31, 2010

For details about Opening Events and other information, please see