Current Events & Trends | October 2019 |

Rare Books &c. at Auction This Week

Image: Christie's

Plate from Maria Sibylla Merian's work on insects, offered at Christie's New York on Friday.

Here are the auctions I'll be watching this week:

On Wednesday, October 23, Bonhams New Yorks sells Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Dodge Family Autograph Collection, Natural History, Travel and Americana, in 323 lots. A very rare Jesse James autograph letter to a Mr. Flood demanding that the recipient retract comments he had made suggesting that James was a horse thief, is estimated at $200,000–300,000. An 1813 letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra could sell for $80,000–100,000. The unpublished manuscript maquette for Christopher Webb Smith's Indian Ornithology, once in the collection of H. Bradley Martin, rates a $50,000–80,000 estimate.

PBA Galleries holds an Americana – Yosemite – Travel & Exploration – World History – Cartography sale on Thursday, October 24. The 382 lots include Sun Pictures of the Yo Semite Valley (1874), containing forty-four photographs of Yosemite by Charles Weed and Eadward Muybridge ($40,000–60,000). Petrus Bertius' Tabularum Geographicarum Contractarum Libri Septem (1618), a French-language edition of this work with 220 engraved maps, could fetch $15,000–25,000. The daybook and ledger of the Mariposa Hotel near Yosemite, covering the period 1890–1895, are estimated at $800–1,200. Lots 333–382 are being sold without reserve.

Also on Thursday, it will be Early Printed, Travel, Scientific & Medical Books at Swann Galleries, in 254 lots. A first issue of Newton's Opticks (1704), is estimated at $15,000–25,000. Sharing an estimate of $10,000–15,000 are an attractive nine-volume set of the official accounts of the voyages of Captain Cook, and a first edition of Galileo's Dialogo (1632). Quite a few interesting incunabula in this one.

On Friday, October 25, Christie's New York sells Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana, in 153 lots. John Forbes Nash's Nobel Prize medal and associated documents are expected to sell for $500,000–800,000. Reinhard Selten's Nobel Prize medal, also awarded in 1994, is estimated at $200,000–300,000. Rating the same estimate is an operational Apple-1 motherboard from 1976. Maria Sibylla Merian's insect books, bound in one volume, are estimated at $180,000–250,000. For the Americana fans: the Brinley copy of Thomas Morton's New English Canaan (1637), is estimated at $35,000–45,000, and Samuel Groom's A Glass for the People of New England (1676), also from Brinley's collection, could fetch $20,000–40,000.

Kolbe & Fanning sell books from the library of George F. Kolbe on Saturday, October 26, in 562 lots.

At time of writing, Heritage Auctions' website was down due to a malware attack, with a note that "all currently affected auctions will be extended or rescheduled." So watch for updates there on their scheduled sales for this week: Historical Manuscripts Featuring the Bret J. Formichi American Civil War Rarities Collection on October 23 and Estate of John and Elaine Steinbeck Manuscripts on October 24.