Auctions | April 11, 2014

<i>The Picture of Dorian Gray</i> Fetches a Record $40,625 at Doyle NY

Doyle New York held a successful auction of Rare Books & Autographs on April 9, 2014. The sale offered over 250 lots, including Americana, early manuscripts, first editions, literature, plate books, atlases, travel, maps, science, illustration art and autographs.

Also selling for a record price was an 1891 first trade edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, London: Ward, Lock & Co., consigned by a Titled English Lady. Complete with its excessively rare paper dust jacket, the book sold for $40,625—a world auction record for an uninscribed copy.

Other first editions included a uniformly bound set in nine volumes of the voyages of Captain James Cook, London: W. Strahan and T. Cadwell, 1773, 1777 and 1785, that surpassed its estimate of $12,000-18,000 to achieve $22,500. Of more recent vintage was a 1963 first edition of Maurice Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are, New York: Harper & Row, inscribed in 1963 by Sendak with a small drawing to his psychoanalyst. Estimated at $3,000-5,000, the book fetched a near record $18,750.

The selection of autographs featured the impressively comprehensive autograph collection of William Waudby, who lived in Washington and worked in the Department of Commerce. This unique and diverse collection, assembled circa 1913, comprised approximately 1,000 signed pictorial postcards and four albums of autographs devoted to Presidents, politicians, military figures, Authors, explorers, aviators, artists, illustrators and other figures of note. Estimated at $6,000-9,000, the collection achieved $37,500.

The sale offered a large assortment of Americana, highlighted by a manuscript describing General John Lacey’s 1773 expedition to the Delaware Indians and the 1776 Canadian Campaign. The first section described Lacey's remarkable journey to Ohio to accompany his elderly uncle, the preacher Zebulon Hester, on missionary visit to the Delaware Indians in Ohio, a group he remembered from before their removal from South-Eastern Pennsylvania. The month long journey in the summer of 1773 was guided by notable Native Americans of the era. The second section of the manuscript journal describes Lacey's desire to join the Revolutionary cause despite the pacifist demands of his Quaker community. In 1776, Lacey was commissioned captain of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment in the newly formed Continental Army. Described in detail is Lacey's assignment to deliver messages to Benedict Arnold at Montreal. This remarkably rich narrative by a major Revolutionary War figure achieved $31,250, more than doubling its estimate of $10,000-15,000.

Also noteworthy was a very rare 1798 memoir by former slave Venture Smith, published New-London [Conn.]: Printed by C. Holt. Venture Smith's narrative is the earliest and likely the rarest of first-hand American narratives of slave life. He commences with his birth, at Dukandarra in Guinea (West Africa) in about 1729, and recounts his captivity, and all the horrors of the life of a slave. The final page bears a 1798 attestation from various Stonington residents as to the veracity of his account, noting that he had purchased his freedom (and, in fact, he eventually purchased his entire family out of slavery). It is one of the rarest of all American slavery books, and apparently the earliest printed American first-hand account of a slave captivity. Only seven copies are known to survive. Estimated at $8,000-12,000, this remarkable memoir fetched $21,250.

Three rare volumes of The Workes of Benjamin Jonson, the first dated 1616 and the second and third 1640-41, more than doubled their estimate of $5,000-8,000, fetching $17,500. A collection of thirteen Medieval leaves and fragments from decorated manuscripts in Latin on vellum, 12th/13th centuries, sold for $10,000, surpassing their estimate of $5,000-7,000.

All prices include the buyer's premium.

Highlighting the sale was a rare and important Nebuchadnezzar II Babylonian cuneiform cylinder that set a World Auction Record for a Babylonian Cylinder. The price of $605,000 achieved by Doyle New York far surpassed the prior record of £264,000 (approx. $440,000) set in London in 2011.

For more information on the Babylonian cylinder, click here.

Doyle New York's next auction of Rare Books & Autographs is scheduled for Fall 2014. Consignments are currently being accepted. We invite you to contact us for a complimentary auction evaluation. Our specialists are always available to discuss the sale of a single item or an entire collection. For information, please contact Edward Ripley-Duggan at 212-427-4141, ext 234, or Peter Costanzo at ext. 248, or email