January 2018 | Jeremy Dibbell

Rare Books at Auction this Week

A fairly quiet auction week coming up, but here are some of the things I'll be keeping an eye on:

                                                                                                                                                                                        PBA Galleries holds a sale of Fine Literature & Fine Books, Poetry from the Collection of Larry Rafferty, and Miniature Books on Thursday January 11, in a whopping 721 lots. 

                                                                                                                                                                                         Among the top-estimated lots are a first-edition set of Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ($12,000-18,000); a 1687 edition of Don Quixote ($8,000-12,000), six lots (152-157) containing plays from the 1632 Second Folio edition of Shakespeare, a first edition of Thoreau's Walden ($5,000-8,000), and the Kelmscott Press edition of William Morris's The Wood Beyond the World ($4,000-6,000).

                                                                                                                                                                                                Larry Rafferty is the founder of Berkeley's hit & run press, and his collection of poetry includes many signed or inscribed copies of works by important nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets, from John Ashbery to Oscar Wilde. A first edition of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land ($5,000-8,000) and a signed copy of Elizabeth Bishop's North & South (also estimated at $5,000-8,000) top the presale estimates, but there is much here for the poetry collector. Lots that caught my eye included the publisher's long galleys for Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Starting from San Francisco" ($400-600), and one lot containing four books, five letters, and an eighteen-page autograph manuscript by Uruguayan poet Jules Superveille (also $400-600).

                                                                                                                                                                                        A whole bunch to choose from for the miniature book collector (Lots 561-675): group lots of books from the Black Cat Press, Dawson's Book Shop, the Hillside Press, the Kitemaug Press, the Press of Ward Schori, and from Achille St. Onge, among others, plus a lot of seven nineteenth-century American thumb Bibles* ($200-300).


                                                                                                                                                                                                     Lots 637 to 721 are being sold without reserve with bids starting at $10: these include a number of interesting miniature books and reference works relating to miniature books, group lots of Book Club of California publications, and several lots of books published by Arkham House.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 On Friday, January 12, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society holds its first of six auctions this year of donated rare and out-of-print books, in 433 lots. The catalogue is available as a PDF file. Much local history and genealogy on offer, as well as a hefty number of hymnals and religious texts, but also such potential items of interest as the first twenty-one volumes of the Yale University Press edition of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin (Lot 25). Anyone with an interest in Pennsylvania history, Mennonite religious texts and hymnals, &c. may want to have a look through the catalogue for this sale; judging by past prices realized, it may be possible to snag a bargain or two.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    *More on "thumb bibles."

                                                                                                                                                                                                Image credit: PBA Galleries.