January 2013 | Mitch Fraas

Recent Top eBay Book Sales (September-December 2012)

Initial from 16th c. Antiphonal ms.  (Bibliopathos)

It's time again for an update on top eBay sales since my report in September. As one would expect, most of the hot antiquarian material on the list sold in December during the pre-Christmas runup. The list includes an incunable, an early modern manuscript, a modern first, and one of the great collectable atlases. As in my last report, I'm only including true auctions (those with competitive bidding) in order to get more accurate account of sales.

1. $15,000: Bibliopathos booksellers of Milan appears again at the top of the list, this time for a Spanish 16th c. illuminated antiphonal manuscript (see Initial V above). Once the property of an Iberian Antonine house the manuscript remains in its original binding. Sold after 8 bids on December 19th. This is an impressive turnaround for Bibliopathos as the same manuscript was sold at auction by Florentine dealer Gonnelli in November for just 3,900 euros (lot 26 in catalog 11).

2. $10,500: Second on the list is a volume from one of the most treasured early modern atlases, Willem and Johan Blaeu's mid-17th c. Theatrum orbis terrarium sive Atlas Novus (Amsterdam, 1649-55). Offered here is volume 5, published in 1654  covering Scotland and Ireland. Note especially the original vellum Blaeu binding. Sold by Antiquariat Steffen Völkel of Seubersdorf, Germany after a remarkable 48 bids on December 11th. This is of course a far cry from the enormous sums the entire set of Blaeu atlases can command, see for instance the $458,000 paid at Christie's in 2009.

3. $10,200: The history of science and mathematics continues to be a hot collecting area as represented by the third volume on the list: Isaac Newton's Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica 3rd ed. (London: William and John Innys, 1726). [ESTC T98375]. Records indicate  that 200 copies of this edition were printed, at least 98 of which are now in institutional hands. Sold by Charles Vyvial of Montreal after 4 bids on October 8th.

4. $8,950: The ever desirable books of the Aldine press are represented at number four with the incunable Thesaurus Cornu copiae et Horti Adonidis (Venice, 1496) [ISTC it00158000]. Sold after 16 bids on December 9th by Bibliofind. A more complete copy sold for 11,250 GBP at Sotheby's in 2009.

5. $8,100: With the Hobbit hitting theaters it's perhaps no surprise that a first printing of the first edition sold after 11 bids on December 26th.Offered by "Oneinamillionbooks" of Summerland, British Columbia.

An honorable mention should also go to another Aldine incunable [ISTC if00191000] offered by Bibliopathos which garnered 22 bids on December 9th (topping out at $14,550) without meeting the reserve price. The volume was re-listed for $19,000 but failed to sell by January 1st. Also in the world of manuscripts and print ephemera, a remarkable lot of documents, bill heads, programs, and other items relating to 19th c. American minstrel shows sold for $3,552.22 after 22 bids on December 27th.