Thursday, December 15, 2011

Auction Report: December Sales

It's been quite a fortnight for Sotheby's book auctions!

- The 6 December Western and Oriental Manuscripts at Sotheby's London brought in a total of £987,900. Lot 45, Walter Hilton's Scala perfectionis, which I pointed out in my preview as having some some wonderfully gruesome penwork illustrations, ended up being the top seller, fetching £181,250. A 12th-century manuscript of Isidore of Seville's Etymologies also did well, selling for £109,250. Several Books of Hours also far surpassed pre-sale estimates. Ludolf of Saxony's Vita Christi, which had rated the top estimate, failed to sell.

- Swann's Maps, Atlases, Natural History and Historical Prints on 8 December saw a 1775 Fry map of Virginia take the top spot, making $28,800.

- Sotheby's New York's Fine Books & Manuscripts sale on 13 December was the whopper of the month, bringing in a total of $7,406,138. The original Apple Computer contract ended up claiming the top price, at $1,594,500, while the George Washington letter from the Bennington Museum's collection sold for $362,500. Hans Bellmer's Les Jeux de la poupée (1949) fetched $302,500 (much more than the $30,000-50,000 estimate). A fragment of a ~1456-58 Gutenberg edition of Donatus' Ars minor reached the same price. Top among the Chandler lots was a copy of The Big Sleep inscribed to his first wife; it sold for $254,500. The notebook of Rabindranath Tagore made $170,500. Watch the winter issue of Fine Books & Collections for my rundown of this sale.

- The first edition of Graham Greene's Rumour at Nightfall was indeed the top seller at Bloomsbury's 14-15 December Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper sale. It made £17,000.

- The English Literature, History, Private Press, Children's Books & Illustrations today at Sotheby's London brought in £1,741,938. The unpublished Charlotte Brontë miniature manuscript did even better than expected, selling for £690,850 (reportedly to a French museum). The first edition set of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey also did well, fetching £157,250. A 1536 "Mole Bible" sold for £91,250. The Second Folio does not appear to have have a buyer.

- The Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts and PBA Galleries Americana, Travel, and Cartography sales are currently underway. I'll add highlights should events warrant.

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