December 2010 | Jeremy Dibbell

Audubon Sets New World Record at Sotheby's

Today's sale of Western Manuscripts and Miniatures at Sotheby's London made £2,897,250, with all but two of the 36 lots selling. The Rochefoucauld Grail shined as expected, selling for £2,393,250 to London dealer Sam Fogg. None of the other lots broke £100,000. The Northern Italian Book of Hours (est. £200,000-250,000) failed to sell.

But the big action of the day came in the Hesketh Sale, Magnificent Books, Manuscripts and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick 2nd Lord Hesketh, which brought in a grand total of £14,971,950, with just 9 of 91 lots failing to sell. The major items from this sale were the complete Audubon Birds of America (which sold for a record-setting £7,321,250/$11,544,553 to London dealer Michael Tollemache, setting a new auction record for a printed book) and the First Folio (which sold for £1,497,250/$2,360,947).

The ~1508 Plutarch illuminated manuscript on vellum, once in the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps and the 11th-century commentary on Matthew each made £505,250, while thecollection of letters written to the jailer of Mary, Queen of Scots (including four by Elizabeth I), fetched £349,250. A 1613 Ben Jonson folio sold for £103,250.

The second edition Catesby made £121,500, as did a collection of natural history watercolors ; and all fifty-two of the original watercolor roses for Pierre-Joseph Redouté's Les Roses (sold in separate lots) found buyers, with prices ranging from £25,000 to £265,250.