Auctions | May 28, 2014

Sangorski Manuscript a Top Lot at PBA’s Sale of Dr. Elmer Belt’s Collection

PBA Galleries conducted the auction of Fine Books from the Library of Dr. Elmer Belt on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014, in their San Francisco galleries.  Dr. Elmer Belt (1893-1980) was a renowned surgeon and noted bibliophile. An early member of Southern California's bibliophile society, the Zamorano Club, and the fifth recipient of the Sir Thomas More Medal for Book Collecting, Dr. Belt was a passionate book collector as evidenced by the offerings at the sale.

Highlights of the sale were the three lots  selling at $30,000 each:  the fine illuminated manuscript of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Blessed Damozel from the calligraphic master Alberto Sangorski; the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of the  Adventure  and Beagle in three volumes, inscribed by Robert Fitzroy, Captain of the Beagle, to the English philanthropist and astronomer John Lee; and the first edition of William Gilbert’s De Magnete which is one of the first major English scientific works based on experimental methods of research.

The extremely rare complete set of California mission etchings by Henry Chapman Ford brought $27,000.  The set also included the original pencil sketch for plate 9 from his series “Santa Ynez” and a second etching of the Mission Santa Barbara.

Two manuscripts were among the top sellers.  A manuscript notebook of transcriptions of lectures given by Scottish anatomist and physician William Hunter, sold for an exceptional $9,000, six times the pre-auction high estimate.  The notebook, kept by a student, documents Dr. Hunter’s famous lectures from October - December 1762.  The manuscript handwritten by British philosopher Bertrand Russell sold for $8,400, almost three times the pre-auction high estimate.  The lot which had once belonged to Charlie Chaplin, who had presented it to Dr. Belt, decries the unequal distribution of wealth.

Additional highpoints include several photographic works including the first lot of the sale, Sierra Nevada:  The John Muir Trail by Ansel Adams illustrated with 50 tipped-in plates and signed twice by Adams, $7,800;  a framed photograph of Winston Churchill signed on the mount beneath the photo by the great statesman, $2,160; a collection of over 1200 photographs of Belt family vacations, $1,920; and a framed, signed photograph of John F. Kennedy brought over four times the pre-auction high estimate, $1,320.

PBA Galleries holds sales of fine, rare and collectible books every two weeks.  For more information regarding upcoming sales, consignments, or auction results, please contact PBA Galleries at (451) 989 -266 or

PBA Galleries

Auctioneers and Appraiser of Rare Books, Autographs & Manuscripts, Maps & Atlases, Photographs

133 Kearny Street, 4th Floor

San Francisco, California 94108

Tel: 415 989-2665

Fax: 415 989-1664