Last Week at Auction

Image: Sotheby's

Pierre de Coubertin's "Olympic Manifesto" speech, which set records at Sotheby's last week.

There's not much going on in the auction rooms this week, but plenty of fascinating things happened last week that are very much worth a recap.

At the Swann Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books sale on Tuesday, an 1840 Hawaiian-language school geography printed at the Lahainaluna Seminary, He Mau Palapala Aina A Me Na Niele No Ka Hoikehonua, was the top lot, selling for $68,750 (over estimates of just $2,500–3,500). The book's maps were engraved by George Luther Kapeau, a seminary student who later became governor of Hawaii. A large Currier & Ives lithograph, "The Mississippi in Time of Peace" (1865) sold for $21,250, more than doubling its presale estimate.

A rare copy of the third issue of the first California newspaper, Californian (August 29, 1846) sold for $10,200 on Thursday at the PBA Galleries Americana sale; it had been estimated at $2,000–3,000. A copy of Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, written by himself, published in New York in 1849, sold for $8,400 over estimates of $300–500.

The Sotheby's New York History of Science and Technology sale on Tuesday realized $2,492,000. Biologist Ernst Mayr's copy of the first edition of Darwin's Origin sold for $175,000, and an operational four-rotor Enigma machine seized from Nazi troops at Trondheim in 1945 sold for $800,000. This is a world record for an Enigma machine at auction. An original Apple Computer, Inc. neon sign sold for $81,250 (it had been estimated at $10,000–15,000).

Audubon's Birds of America sold for $6,642,400 on Wednesday afternoon to Graham Arader.

Prior to the Audubon sale on Wednesday Sotheby's held a Fine Books and Manuscripts sale, which made a total of $11,094,875. Much of that total came from Pierre de Coubertin's "Olympic Manifesto," which sold for $8,806,500; this is a new world record for any sports memorabilia at auction. The buyer has not been announced.

Poe also sold well this week: the Prescott-Manney copy of Poe's The Raven and Other Poems made $312,500, and a copy of the 1831 Poems in a presentation binding and inscribed by Poe to his friend John Neal sold for $81,250.

Looking forward to what treats 2020 brings -- happy holidays to all!