Auctions | November 2, 2015

Cartographic & Travel Rarities Astound at PBA Galleries

The extremely rare and the highly important held sway at PBA Galleries’ auction of Rare Cartography, Exploration & Voyages: The Warren Heckrotte Collection, Part I - Exploration & Early Approaches, held on October 29, 2015. The select, 202-lot offering concentrated on the exploration and mapping of the Americas, with particular attention paid to the west and northwest coasts of North America, extending north to Alaska and the Bering Strait. Warren Heckrotte began collecting in the 1960s, and his superb and extensive collection of maps, books, and atlases contained many scarce items that had not been on the market in several decades, some of which only a handful of copies are known to exist. The sale drew a small but active cadre of floor bidders attending, and scores of participants by telephone and real-time bidding over the internet. 

The result was PBA Galleries’ best-ever auction, with a total of $1,549,816 in sales, and three lots topping the $100,000 figure, with only five minor lots going unsold. The first of the six-figure lots was John Green’s Remarks in Support of the New Chart of North and South America; in Six Sheets, 1753, the text accompanied by the rare six-sheet map, bound together in period full red calf tooled in gilt with the arms of a Portuguese marquis. The Remarks and highly influential map, which was the first to assign the name Bering to the strait between Asia and North America, was bid to $131,500, well over the $20,000-$30,000 estimate. Like a number of the rarities in the auction, the Green chart with the Remarks comes to the market so seldom that it is hard to predict what the results might be - in fact this very copy last sold at auction for $2,175 back in 1980.

The next of the hundred thousand dollar lots was the rare account by Gavrilla Andreevich Sarychev of the eight-year Russian expedition under Joseph Billings to explore the shores of north eastern Siberia, the Sea of Okhotsk, Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, and part of the American continent. Complete with the highly desirable atlas of 51 maps and views, the rare Russian-language set, published in St. Petersburg in 1802, brought a record $143,000, topping, then toppling, the estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

This was followed by one of the rarest items in the auction, Miguel Costansó’s Carta Reducida Del Oceano Asiatico, ? Mar Del Sur, Que Comprehende La Costa Oriental Y Occidental De La Peninsula De La California, a separately issued chart derived from the Spanish expeditions into California in 1769 and 1770, in which San Diego and Monterey were founded. The Bay of San Francisco was also discovered, and this chart, dated 1771 and published in Madrid, was the first printed map to show the San Francisco Bay. With only six or so copies known to exist (bibliographers differ), it is of both great rarity and grave importance, and met with well-deserved attention when bid to $131,500, shattering the $20,000-$30,000 estimate.

An important series of large maps by Aaron Arrowsmith, presenting up-to-date cartography of the world and in particular the northern and western reaches of North America created strong bidding, with the stiffest competition being for the first 1802 issue of A Map Exhibiting all the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America. This scarce map is of utmost significance in the annals of U.S. history, being the same issue as the map that was carried by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their epic journey across the continent. Estimated at $20,000-$30,000, it sold for $84,000.

Other exceptional prices include $96,000 for the rare 1822-23 account by Vasili Mikhailovich Golovnin of a Russian circumnavigation with the settlements in Kamchatka and Russian America the primary objective; the Atlas to Thompson’s Alcedo, 1816, containing five multi-sheet wall maps of the Americas by Aaron Arrowsmith, sold for $54,000; an 1831 atlas of fifteen Spanish maritime charts of South and Central America, including one of Baja California, fetched $39,000; the very rare account by Gerhard Friedrich Müller of Bering's second expedition, A Letter from a Russian Sea-Officer, to a Person of Distinction at the Court of St. Petersburgh, 1754, was bid to $30,000; a nice set of George Vancouver’s A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World, 1798, three volumes plus the atlas, brought $30,000; a set of two rare Spanish charts of Vancouver Island by Dionisio Galiano and Cayetano Valdés, 1795, was hammered down at $33,000; and a rare chart by Alexander Vilbrekht showing the discoveries of Russian navigators in the northern Pacific, published in St. Petersburg in 1802, was well above the $6,000-$9,000 estimate when it sold for $24,000.

The complete catalogue for the auction, with prices realized, is at www.pbagalleries .com. Note that all prices listed include the buyer’s premium.

The next in the series of auctions of the Heckrotte Collection, Cartography, Exploration & Voyages: The Warren Heckrotte Collection, Part II - California & the Way Thither, will be held on December 3, 2015, and Part III - Filling in the Gaps, on March 10, 2016. 

For more information regarding upcoming sales, consignments, or auction results, please contact PBA Galleries at (415) 989-2665 or or visit

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