March 2018 | Jeremy Dibbell

Rare Books at Auction This Week

A few sales to note this week:


On Wednesday, March 28, Freeman's in Philadelphia sells Books, Maps & Manuscripts, in 408 lots. The top presale estimate ($15,000-25,000) goes to an engraved chart of the Chesapeake region from William Norman's American Pilot. Other lots to watch include an 1890s collection of photographs by the Northwestern Photographic Co., a set of Lord Kingsborough's Antiquities of Mexico (1831-1848) and an inscribed first edition of Borges's El Aleph (1949), all estimated at $8,000-12,000. Much more here for the Borges collector, too. There are also a number of lots (roughly 357-377) of Audubon plates from various editions from the collection of Dr. James Lee. 


Also on Wednesday, at Chiswick Auctions, Autographs & Memorabilia, in 214 lots, and The Warrens Library and a Fine Collection of Maps & Atlases, in 253 lots. In the first, a sword owned by Lord George Gordon is estimated at £6,000-8,000, and a copy of the first edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix signed by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint (with an additional signed bookplate by J.K. Rowling) could fetch £2,000-2,500. Warrens, a historic house in Hampshire, was designed by John Nash, and according to the auction catalog its library (lots 300-448 in the sale) was collected by three generations of the Eyre family, but has been left largely untouched since 1923. The maps tend to rate the higher estimates for this auction, though: they include a seventeenth-century manuscript portolan chart on vellum centered on Sicily (£40,000-60,000). Plenty here for the map collector to look over.


The following day, Chiswick Auctions sells Books from the Library of Giancarlo Beltrame, Part II, in 245 lots; it's a busy week over there! A great range of books on science and medicine in this one, with most estimated in the low-to-mid three figures. A 1749 Padua edition of Newton's Optices caught my eye as I was scrolling through the catalog (estimated at £300-500).




Also on Thursday, 29 March, Swann Galleries hosts a sale of Printed & Manuscript African Americana, in 386 lots. One of Malcolm X's first letters written under his new name, a March 12, 1950 letter from prison to a fellow member of the Nation of Islam, is estimated at $20,000-30,000. A remarkable 1854 letter from enslaved man Moses Walker to his mother on another plantation could sell for $12,000-18,000. An 1838 David Ruggles letter urging the establishment of a Committee of Vigilance in Syracuse, NY, is estimated at $6,000-9,000. A copy of the first American publication of the famed diagram of the slave ship Brooks (pictured) rates a $3,000-4,000 presale estimate.


Image credit: Swann Galleries