March 2018 | Jeremy Dibbell

Rare Books at Auction This Week

A very busy auction schedule this week, with eight sales of note to keep an eye on.


At Dominic Winter Auctioneers on Wednesday, March 7, Printed Books, Maps & Caricatures, in 575 lots. A first edition of Jane Austen's Emma could lead the bidding, with estimates at £5,000-8,000. A 1715 Oxford Bible once owned by poet Thomas Gray is estimated at £1,000-1,500.


Also on Wednesday, Heritage Auctions hosts a Rare Books Signature Auction in New York, in 639 lots. An inscribed first edition of The Great Gatsby has an opening bid of $50,000, while a Borges essay manuscript has a posted reserve of $20,000.


On Thursday, March 8, Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books at Swann Galleries, in 273 lots. The first illustrated edition of the Poeticon Astronomicon (Venice, 1482) rates a $15,000-20,000 estimate to lead the way, but several other incunable titles will be worth keeping an eye on. These include a copy of the earliest extant chess manual (c. 1496-7, pictured below).



Kestenbaum & Company will sell Fine Judaica on Thursday, in 356 lots. The sale will include paintings, posters, printed books, manuscripts, autographs, and ceremonial objects. Lots 291-307 have been deaccesioned from the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn.


Rounding out Thursday's trio of sales is an auction of Fine Literature & Fine Books at PBA Galleries, in 360 lots. Notable lots include a first edition of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath ($3,000-5,000) and a copy of the 1882 author's signed edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass ($2,500-3,500).


Friday, March 9, sees another pair of auctions: Dominic Winter Auctioneers hosts a sale titled Photography: The First 150 Years, in 491 lots, including the John Hannavy Collection of Victorian Photographs & Cased Images. Julia Margaret Cameron's portrait of Sir John Frederick William Herschel (one of several Cameron photographs availabel) is estimated at £30,000-50,000. Herbert Ponting, Roger Fenton, and many other key photographers are also well represented.


In New York on Friday, Bonhams sells Extraordinary Books and Manuscripts. There are just thirty-three lots in the sale, but the use of "extraordinary" in this title seems by no means misplaced: nearly all of the lots would be worth a full post in their own right. An unpublished Isaac Newton alchemical manuscript ($200,000-300,000), the Bible on which Ulysses S. Grant took the presidential oath of office ($80,000-120,000), a violin which belonged to Albert Einstein ($100,000-150,000), and a copy of the 1478 Rome Cosmographia ($600,000-800,000) are among the items on offer.


Finally, on March 10, Heritage Auctions sells the second part of the David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Americana, in 509 lots. A good range of memorabilia here again, as in the first sale from this collection earlier.


Image credit: Swann Galleries