May 2012 | Mitch Fraas

Recent Top eBay Book Sales (March-May 2012)

Back at the beginning of March I posted a list of top eBay book sales from December 2011 to the end of February 2012. Since eBay only keeps listings around for so long I thought I'd repeat the list every two to three months to keep up to date:

The highest five sellers by price:

  1. $33,000: Galileo Galilei.  Dialogo di Galileo Galilei Linceo matematico. (Florence, 1632). Bound in "18th century stiff vellum with red morocco label and gilt-lettered title on spine." Frontispiece lacking "ab origine" according to dealer, replaced with facsimile. Sold on March 13th by Bibliopathos booksellers of Milan. A first edition of one of Galileo's seminal works, at least five copies have come up for auction in the past five years including the Frank Streeter copy (with frontispiece) which brought $85,000 at Christie's in 2007.
  2. $10,733: The second top seller, generating much bidding attention, was a circa 1470 illuminated Italian book of hours. The 246 page manuscript featured  "...a lively full-page border of multicolored naturalistic flowers on a solid golden-bronze background, and a superbly executed inhabited initial 'D' with an exquisite 'Madonna and Child' miniature." Sold by Lux & Umbra of Pittsburgh after 53 bids on May 7th.
  3. $10,100: Otto von Guericke. Experimenta nova (ut vocantur) Magdeburgica de vacuo spatio (Amsterdam, 1672). Continuing the history of science trend, this early book on the science of creating a vacuum proved a hot item. In addition to a full complement of engravings, this particular volume had attractive provenance, being previously in the collections of scientists Frédéric-Louis Allamand  and Nobel prize winner Hendrik Antoon Lorentz. Sold by Konstantinopel Fine and Rare Books of Enschede in the Netherlands on May 12th after 4 bids.
  4. $10,000: H.D. Thoreau. Walden; Or, a Life in the Woods. (Boston, 1854). Original brown cloth boards.This first edition of Thoreau's classic had a print run of 2,000 copies and is always desirable for collectors of American Literature (a copy sold last year at Sotheby's for $11,000). Sold by Ernestoic Books of Williamsville, New York on May 7th.
  5. $9,800: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Maecenas Press, 1969) with 12 lithographs by Salvador Dali. This copy is number 2106 of the limited edition of 2500. Dali's lithographed books continue to be popular on eBay - a copy of his 1967 lithographed bible was one of the top sellers in my last update. This copy of Alice was sold by Longfellow Books and Magazines of Portland, Oregon on April 23rd.
I've excluded entire collections from the above list otherwise one of the top sellers would have been this impressive collection of 35 books relating to the sinking of the Titanic which aptly named seller "perilonthesea" of New York sold for $29,999.90 to a lone bidder on April 1st.  I was personally fascinated by another sale in the top twenty which reaffirmed for me the increasing interest   in Asian art and art books. Better World Books (which has a large inventory of library discards) sold eight otherwise unidentified books of Chinese architectural and calligraphic design for $7,255 on May 4th after a series of 12 bidders (31 bids in total) took it up from an initial offering price of $19.99!

Finally, in the top twenty were a smattering of incunabula including some intense bidding on a 1498 Parisian book of hours [ISTC ih00395000] offered by Konstantinopel which fetched $6,707.07 after 22 bids on March 30th.  The magnificent Estelle Doheny copy of this title (formerly owned by Napoleon's sister) sold for a whopping 160,000 GBP at Christie's in 2010. Also of interest was Johannes Simoneta's Commentarii rerum gestarum Francisci Sfortiae. (Milan: Antonius Zarotus, 23 Sept. 1486) [ISTC is00533000] from Lux & Umbra. This particular volume, formerly owned by Jacopo de Guazzoni of Cremona was sold at Leslie Hindman just last year. Offered this time by the Pittsburgh bookseller for $11,900, a buyer made a successful offer of $9,400.

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