Auctions | March 22, 2012

The Michael Lerner Collection at Bonhams NY

New York—Timed to coincide with the release of his latest film, Mirror, Mirror, Hollywood actor Michael Lerner will be offering his book collection in the Fine Books & Manuscripts auction at Bonhams in New York on April 16.  Highlights from the library of Michael Lerner include an exquisite set of rare illustrated books with hand-colored plates, a selection of natural history volumes featuring works from the Duke of Gloucester’s personal collection and a comprehensive group of Aesop’s Fables from across the centuries.  This aspect of Lerner’s collection is driven by his appreciation of unique tales similar to his latest film project.  

Born in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Lerner began his acting career in 1963 at the London Academy of Music and Drama as a Fulbright Scholar, tutored by Christopher Fry.  His first film was shot during this period by roommate, Yoko Ono and also starred several members of The Beatles.  By the late 1960s, Lerner had moved back to the US and began working at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. During the 1970s, he was making guest appearances on such noted television shows such as The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple and M*A*S*H. A mainstream film debut in 1970 led to supporting roles in various Hollywood movies such as Robert Redford's The Candidate, Charles Bronson's St. Ives and Jack Nicholson's The Postman Always Rings Twice. He was nominated for an Academy Award® for his role in Barton Fink (1991), and continues to appear in major television and film productions.

Lerner’s collection is filled with the kind of books one would expect to find in an English country house library. A core of books date from the first quarter of the 19th century, when advances in printing technology and changing fashions produced a wave of books illustrated with exquisitely hand-colored plates. At the forefront of this trend was the publisher Rudolph Ackermann, along with popular artists like Rowlandson, Gillray, Alken and Cruikshank. Highlights in the collection include Ackermann’s Microcosm of London, 1808-1810, a 3-volume set in a period red morocco “cathedral-style” binding (est. $6,000-8,000),  and Jean Baptiste Balthazar Sauvan’s Picturesque Tour of the Seine with original wrappers bound in (est. $5,000-8,000).  Typifying the landscape views of this period is the Picturesque Tour of the River Thames, 1828, one of a few large paper copies with plates in both colored and uncolored states (est. $10,000-15,000).

The Michael Lerner Collection is not limited to British views, however. More exotic locations such as India (Forrest’s Tour along the River Ganges, 1824, estimate $6,000- 8,000) and Argentina (Vidal’s Buenos Ayres and Monte Video, 1820, est. $5,000-7,000) also feature. Every country house library included natural history books, and the Duke of Gloucester’s copy of Edwards’ Natural History of Uncommon Birds, 1743-1751, found its way into the Lerner Collection (est. $25,000-35,000) as well as copies of Audubon (est. $10,000-15,000) and Hogarth prints (est. $2,500-3,500).

A final, more unusual, niche to the collection is Aesop’s Fables. Lerner assembled a comprehensive group of different editions from across the centuries. Driven by Lerner’s appreciation of unique and unusual tales, such as his latest film, Mirror, Mirror, the collection includes not one but two 1665 editions, one illustrated by John Ogilby (est. $3,000-5,000) and another by Francis Barlow (est. $4,000-6,000). A 1565 edition from Antwerp also features (est. $1,500-2,000), and at the more modern end of the spectrum is an edition published in Wales by the Gregynog Press in 1931 (est. $2,000-3,000).

The illustrated auction catalog for this sale will be available online for review and purchase at in the weeks preceding the sale.

Preview: April 10-15, New York
Auction: April 16, New York