Auctions | March 8, 2012

Outstanding Results at Swann's Private Press Sale

New York—On February 23, Swann Galleries conducted an auction of select Private Press & Illustrated Books, mostly from two stellar private collections, and 98 percent of the lots offered found buyers.

Christine von der Linn, Swann’s 19th & 20th Century Books specialist, said, “I was blown away by the strong response and results of this sale. We knew the material was excellent, but to see so much activity and such a high sell-through rate backing that up was truly thrilling. There was absolutely no evidence of the market weakness that affected press books in 2009 and 2010. They’re back with a force.”

The auction’s top lot was the Kelmscott Press masterpiece, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer now newly imprinted, one of 425 copies, Hammersmith, 1896. William Morris’s most celebrated work employed red and black Chaucer and Troy types, and featured 87 large woodcut illustrations as well as woodcut title page, borders, and initial words and letters. It brought $52,800.

Three Kelmscott titles achieved record prices: Syr Ysambrace, one of only eight copies on vellum, 1897,  $18,000; William Morris’s Story of Sigurd the Volsung, one of 160 copies, Hammersmith, 1898, $9,000; and Sydney Cockerel and William Morris’s Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century, 1897, which was limited to 225 unnumbered copies on paper, $4,560.

Other record-setting lots in the auction included Eragny Press’s Songs by Ben Jonson, one of 10 copies on vellum, inscribed by Lucien Pissarro—the press’s founder and son of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro—and Esther Pissaro, London, 1906, $9,000; Merrymount Press’s The Book of Common Prayer, ex-collection of J.P. Morgan & C.H. St. John Hornby, founder of the Ashendene Press, one of 500 copies, Boston, 1928, $6,720; Arion Press’s The Great Gatsby, one of 50 deluxe copies signed by Michael Graves with two original drawings, 1984, $5,280; and one of only seven copies on vellum of Shakespeare Head Press’s Odes of Victory; The Nemean and Isthmian Odes, by Pindar, Oxford, 1930, $4,320.

Also featured were Cranach Press’s first English language edition of Shakespeare’s The Tragedie of Hamlet Prince of Denmark, one of 300 copies in the deluxe red morocco binding on handmade paper, 1930, $14,400; Golden Cockerel Press’s Four Gospels, one of 500 copies, Waltham St. Lawrence, 1931, $13,200 and The Canterbury Tales, four volumes, one of 485 sets, 1928-31, $7,800; Arion Press’s Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, illustrated by Barry Moser, one of 250 copies, San Francisco, 1979, $10,200 and Pennyroyal Press’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, illustrated and with an original drawing by Barry Moser, one of 50 copies, 1982, $4,560.

Rounding out the sale were titles from the Limited Editions Club, an Eric Gill design for a bookplate, Ex-Libris for Jacob Weiss, original wood block, signed printed bookplate, sketch and typed letter signed, 1935, $6,240; an archive of more than 30 pieces published by and about Walter Hamady and the Perishable Press, Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, $4,560; and Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, number eight of 50 deluxe copies, illustrated and signed by Michael Mazur, 2002, $6,240
For complete results, an illustrated auction catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to consign items to Swann’s upcoming auctions of Art, Press & Illustrated Books, please contact Christine von der Linn at 212-254-4710, extension 20, or via e-mail at
*All prices include buyer’s premium.
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