Sunday, November 21, 2010

Auction Preview: December 1-10

The first few days of December will see some really amazing auction sales: a Birds of America, a Shakespeare First Folio, Edward Tufte's fascinating research library, Robert Kennedy's copy of the Emancipation Proclamation ... all previewed below. Reports on the sales will follow as they're held.

- Sotheby's London will sell Music, Continental and Russian Books and Manuscripts on 1 December, in 243 lots. Music rates the top estimates, with an early draft of Beethoven's Opferlied Op. 121B rating the top spot at £80,000-100,000. The top book is Flavius Josephus' De Antiquitate Judaica (1475-6), at £40,000-60,000.

- Bonhams New York will sell Bruce McKinney's collection, The American Experience, 1630-1890, on 2 December, in 314 lots. As with his De Orbe Novo sale at Bloomsbury last December, McKinney has included in the auction catalog information on when and from whom he purchased each lot, as well as the purchase price. The chronological organization of the catalog is also very useful and adds a sense of coherence to the collection. Among the many top-notch lots in this sale are John Smith's Advertisements for the unexperienced planters of New-England (1631), est. $40,000-60,000; Thomas James' Strange and Dangerous Voyage (1633), est. $50,000-80,000; Wood's New England's Prospect with a lovely copy of the map (1635), est. $30,000-50,000; Lederer's Discoveries (1672), est. $40,000-60,000; a third edition of Catesby (1771, with plates and map watermarked 1815-16), est. $80,000-120,000; a copy of the Treaty of Paris (1783), est. $40,000-60,000; Collot's Voyage (1827), est. $80,000-120,000; the first definitive account of Lewis and Clark's travels (1814), est. $70,000-90,000; and early issues of McKenney and Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1838-1844), est. $60,000-80,000.

- Christie's New York has a fascinating sale coming up on 2 December: Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte, in 160 lots. Tufte writes (here) about the sale of his research library, and what the books have meant to him and his research. This catalog makes for a really interesting browse, and the lot descriptions often include the links between the specific works and their use in Tufte's own research and writings. Top-estimated lots include Galileo's Sidereus nuncius (1610), estimated at $600,000-800,000, and a first edition of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), which rates an estimate of $400,000-600,000. But those are just two of the really interesting lots. Tufte will also be doing some talks about the collection prior to the sale (schedule here).

- Also at Christie's New York, on 3 December, Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana, in 570 lots. Some really major things here, including the famously rare Abel Buell map of the United States (1784), estimated at $500,000-700,000 (this copy, the New Jersey Historical Society's, is the best known). An Abraham Lincoln manuscript letter to the Army of the Potomac following the debacle at Fredericksburg rates an estimate of $400,000-600,000, while a rare copy of the first printed edition of Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner" is estimated at $200,000-300,000. Also for sale will be a good selection of Adams Family letters, Lincoln documents and artifacts, and Winston Churchill manuscripts/memorabilia, and several important Declarations of Independence (including the first British printing, the 1833 reprint of Stone's facsimile, and an 1846 anastatic reproduction copy). Interesting bindings, miniature books, and fore-edge paintings round out the auction.

- At Sotheby's London on 7 December, Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, in 36 lots. The major highlight of this sale is expected to be the Rochefoucauld Grail, a three-volume illuminated manuscript in French, c. 1315-1323. Once in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps, this is the foundational Holy Grail text of the medieval period, and it's estimated at £1.5-2 million. A Northern Italian Book of Hours (c. 1470-80) also rates a high estimate, at £200,000-250,000.

- The Hesketh Sale, Magnificent Books, Manuscripts and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick 2nd Lord Hesketh, will be held at Sotheby's London on 7 December, in 91 lots. The major items from this sale are the complete Audubon Birds of America (est. £4-6 million) and the First Folio (est. £1-1.5 million), both of which I've already written about in some detail here. Also on the block will be a fantastic ~1508 Plutarch illuminated manuscript on vellum, once in the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps (est. £400,000-600,000); a collection of letters written to the jailer of Mary, Queen of Scots (including four by Elizabeth I), estimated at £150,000-200,000; a second edition Catesby (est. £80,000-120,000); and fifty-two of the original watercolor roses for Pierre-Joseph Redouté's Les Roses (to be sold separately, so estimates range widely).

- Bonhams New York will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts Including English and Continental Books from a San Francisco Estate on 9 December, in 277 lots. Highlights include the first illustrated edition of Dante (Florence, 1481), est. $25,000-35,000; Pacioli's Divina proportione, with illustrations by da Vinci (Venice, 1509), est. $120,000-180,000; a first edition of Purchas his Pilgrimes with a fourth edition of the Pilgrimage (1625-26), est. $60,000-80,000; a first printed edition of Euclid's Elementa geometriae (Venice, 1482), est. $80,000-120,000. There's also a large selection of Kennedy family memorabilia.

- Sotheby's New York will sell Books and Manuscripts on 10 December, in 115 lots. The top estimate goes to the 20-volume set of Edward Curtis' The North American Indian (1907-1930), which rates $250,000-350,000. And how's this for a pairing: the two lots rating $200,000-300,000 estimates are Bob Dylan's lyrics for "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and a German copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), with the illustrations colored. A first edition of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia ([Paris, 1785]), inscribed by Jefferson to Henry Hew Dalrymple is estimated at $125,000-175,000. Other highlights include a Second Folio (also est. $125,000-175,000); an inscribed copy of A Christmas Carol ($80,000-100,000); a first edition Book of Mormon ($60,000-90,000); and a collection of Constitution-Signer autographs (est. $30,000-50,000).

- Some major single-lot sales will also be held at Sotheby's New York on 10 December, including "Custer's Last Flag," a guidon from the Little Bighorn battlefield, being sold by the Detroit Institute of Arts (and estimated at $2-5 million); Robert F. Kennedy's copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (estimated at $1-1.5 million); and James Naismith's original typescript rules for the game of basketball (estimated only at "$2 million+").

A few sales will be held later in the month; I'll add previews here as information becomes available.

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