Auctions | August 21, 2012

King James Bible and Hemingway's Fishing Bag at Bonhams

San Francisco—As part of its October 10, 2012, Fine Books and Manuscripts sale, to be held in San Francisco with a simulcast in New York, Bonhams is pleased to offer several items of literary and historical importance.  

Among them is a unique, extra-illustrated copy of an early printing of the King James Bible, featuring a large, mystical fore-edge painting by 19th-century bibliophile John T. Beer, one of the great practitioners of the genre (est. $12,000-18,000). The third folio edition of 1613, the book later belonged to the collection of Alfred Sutro, noted collector and president of the Book Club of California, who, in 1938, commissioned a pamphlet from the Grabhorn Press to celebrate this volume.

Also featured are two large panoramas by Italian-British photographer Felice Beato, constructed of photographs taken during the Indian Rebellion of 1857-58 - known in India as the First War of Independence (est. $15,000-25,000). The first panorama, nearly 8 feet long, depicts the ravaged city of Lucknow in vivid detail, following its retaking by the British in March of 1858. The second panorama, at 6 feet in length, depicts Lucknow from the Kaiserbagh, the palace of the King of Oudh and a symbolic stronghold of the mutineers.

Another item of historical interest is an 18th-century document signed by the members of the French royal family, including Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (est. $8,000-12,000). An excellent example of a marriage contract between two members of aristocratic families, the document is also signed by Louis XVIII, Princess Marie Josephine, Charles X and other nobles at Versaille.

Relating to modern literature is a typed letter signed by William Faulkner to Finlay McDermid, head of the writing department at Warner Brothers, regarding the aftermath of Faulkner’s leave of absence from the studio and his attempts to rid himself of his agent Bill Herndon (est. $3,000-5,000). Faulkner addresses rumors of a nervous breakdown - “I am well … never had an illness in my life that a drink of whiskey wouldn’t make worse” - and his difficulty shaking Herndon - “He wants his pound of flesh, no matter how much blood and skin comes off with it.”

An unusual item certain to generate great interest is a fishing bag which belonged to Ernest Hemingway, as well as an inscription from Hemingway to one of his closest friends, Charles Thompson, the owner of a marine hardware store in Key West and the model for the character “Old Karl” in The Green Hills of Africa (est. $3,000-5,000).

Finally, Bonhams will offer a collection of drawings and sketches from Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, mostly executed on the backs of menus for the cruise ship Southern Prince in 1933 (est. $10,000-15,000). Pre-dating the first Seuss book by four years, the drawings feature the kind of fantastical hybrid beasts for which Dr. Seuss would become famous, including a “Wild Bidou,” a “Pernambuco Cow” and “Wild Nextbestbet.”  

An illustrated catalogue for the sale will be available online in the preceding weeks, for review and purchase at  

Auction preview: September 28-30 in New York; October 5-7 in San Francisco
Auction: October 10 in San Francisco, simulcast in New York