October 11, 2012

Bonhams Oct. Books & Mss. Sale Brings $1.3 Million

San Francisco—The Fine Books and Manuscripts sale at Bonhams in San Francisco, held October 10 and simulcast to New York, brought a successful $1,338,263.

The sale’s top highlight was a first-edition, eight-volume collection of albumen prints: The People of India: a Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan (1868-1875) by John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye, which achieved $80,500, soaring past its pre-sale estimate of $8,000-12,000. The collection provides a remarkably comprehensive photographically-illustrated ethnographic study of India. The officers of the British Army were instructed by Lord Canning, Governor-General of India at the time, to go out and photograph “interesting subjects,” and the results proved so extensive that a decision was made to publish them in the present format.
Additional top highlights of the sale, taking in more than $50,000 each, included: a limited-edition, 12-volume collection of Birds and Trees of North America by Rex Brasher, sold for $56,250 (est. $15,000-20,000); a first-edition, four-volume collection of Illustrations of China and its People. A Series of Two Hundred Photographs, With Letterpress Description of the Places and People Represented (1873-1874) by John Thomson, sold for $53,750 (est. $15,000-25,000); a limited-edition of A Book of Cats (1930), by illustrator Tsuguharu Foujita, sold for $52,500 (est. $10,000-15,000); and a first-edition of A Narrative of the Mutiny on board His Majesty's Ship Bounty; and the Subsequent Voyage of part of the Crew, in the Ship's Boat, from Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, to Timor, a Dutch Settlement in the East Indies (1790) by William Bligh, sold for $52,500 (est. $15,000-25,000).

Highlights hardly stopped there. Exceeding expectations were the sales of Jakob Hunziker’s rare, two-volume Nature's Selfprinting: a Series of Useful and Ornamental Plates of the South Indian Flora ... (1862), which brought $47,500 (est. $5,000-7,000); John James Audobon’s first and most desirable seven-volume octavo edition of The Birds of America (1840-1844), which took in $45,000 (est. $15,000-20,000); and an archive of art and letters relating to the influential American artist Max Weber, sold for $40,000 (est. $25,000-35,000).

There were various lots in the sale featuring work by Felice Beato [1832-1909] that sold very well. Beato was one of the very first war photographers. He cut his teeth documenting the Crimean War in 1855-56, following closely in the footsteps of Roger Fenton. After a successful partnership with James Robertson, Beato headed east, and arrived in India in the spring of 1858. There he found destruction—the result of the Indian Rebellion that had begun the year before with the uprising of Indian-born troops ("Sepoys") in the British East India Company. Beato's photographs were published in the Illustrated London News, and in 1860 he moved onto his next assignment, the Opium War in China.

Highlights featuring Beato’s work included: "Photographic Views of Delhi & Lucknow ... Collected by W.J.H. in 1858, at Delhi," containing 16 images of Delhi and 15 of Lucknow, all by Felice Beato, along with 42 further images by Pearson & Paterson, Robertson, Bourne and Shepherd, as well as others, which brought $47,500 (est. $15,000-25,000); a Panorama of Delhi, taken from the Jamma Masjid, comprising 9 lightly albumenized prints joined, 1858, sold for $35,000 (est. $12,000-18,000); a panorama of Lucknow taken from the Great Imambara, comprising 8 lightly albumenized prints joined, 1858, sold for $25,000 ($8,000-12,000); and a panorama of Lucknow taken from the Kaiserbagh, comprising 6 lightly albumenized prints joined, 1858, sold for 13,750 (est. $8,000-12,000).

Additional important highlights include a signed and inscribed lithograph by Alexander Von Humboldt, 1832, sold for $25,000 (est. $800-1,200); the scarce printing of a founding document of California, the California Proclamation by Robert Field Stockton, sold for $20,000 (est. $20,000-30,000); an album of photographs by William H. Baker and John Burke, sold for $18,750 (est. $4,000-6,000); The War Between the United States and Mexico Illustrated. Embracing Pictorial Drawings of All the Principal Conflicts by Carl Nebel ... With a Description of Each Battle (1851) by George Wilkins Kendall, sold for $17,500 (est. $10,000-15,000); a pair of wooden sandals owned by Mohandas Gandhi, sold for $25,000 (est. $25,000-35,000); an 18th-century marriage contract, signed by the members of the French royal family, including Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, sold for $20,000 (est. $8,000-12,000); an original four-panel Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz, sold for $20,000 (est. $8,000-12,000); an early printing of the King James Bible, sold for $15,000 (est. $12,000-18,000); a group of pencil sketches by Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), sold for $12,500 (est. $10,000-15,000); and a fishing bag, once owned by Ernest Hemingway, sold for $12,500 (est. $3,000-5,000).