Auctions | October 27, 2022

Shackleton's Copy of Browning's Poems Tops Explorers' Sale

Potter & Potter

Robert Browning's (1812–1889) Poetical Works gifted to Ernest Shackleton

Chicago - Potter & Potter Auctions' October 20th, 2022 Fine Books and Manuscripts sales event was a best seller in every way. When the hammer fell for the last time, 112 lots scored $1,000-2,499; 42 lots made $2,500-9,999; and 23 lots broke the six figure mark! Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.

Outstanding books and ephemera with direct ties to notable adventurers took several of the top lot slots at this important sale.

•    Lot #44, a copy of Robert Browning's (1812–1889) Poetical Works gifted to Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922), was estimated at $40,000-60,000 and delivered $96,000. This two volumes in one publication was printed in 1906 in London by Smith and Elder. This example was presented to Shackleton and the officers of the Nimrod by a member of the royal geographical society. Shackleton took this book on his expedition and he had it "in the hut under the Polar night." 

•    Lot #43, a real photograph postcard signed by Shackleton, was estimated at $1,500-2,500 and realized an astonishing $16,800. This unused, glossy postcard depicted a three–quarter view portrait of the explorer in formal attire and was signed “E.H. Shackleton.” This image was taken in London by John Thomson and John Newlands in 1908.

•    Lot #63, Captain James Cook's (1728–1779) Collective Voyages, traded hands at $19,200. The collection consisted of 3 volumes from 1765-1769; two volumes from 1772-1775; three volumes from 1776-1780; and one larger book of plates. The First and Second Voyages were printed in London by W. Strahan and T. Cadell in 1773 and 1777.  The Third Voyage was printed in London by H. Hughes for G. Nicol and T. Cadell in 1785.  

•    Lot #62, a second complete set of Cook's Collective Voyages, was estimated at $8,000-12,000 and landed at $18,000. This three works in eight volume collection was also published in London by W. Strahan and T. Cadell in 1773, 1777, and 1784.  This very attractive, crisp set was uniformly bound with fine impressions.

Important signed, first edition, or presentation copy books caught the interest of buyers worldwide.

•    Lot #468, a signed copy of James Joyce's (1882–1941) Ulysses, made $45,600. It was published in London in 1937 by John Lane the Bodley Head. This example was the first English edition printed in England, a limited issue, and was one of 100 copies on mould–made paper signed by Joyce.

•    Lot #382, a signed, first edition, limited issue of Aleister Crowley's (1875–1947) The Winged Beetle, was estimated at $10,000-15,000 and sold for $26,400. It was privately printed in London in 1910. This example was number 1 of 50 from a total edition of 350 and was Crowley’s personal copy. It was heavily annotated in his hand including 39 poems with notes identifying where and when he wrote the poem and to whom it was about.  

•    Lot #379, a limited edition, limited issue copy of Aleister Crowley's Liber XXI: Khing Kang King, the Classic of Purity, was estimated at $6,000-8,000 and made $24,000. It was printed in London by O.TO. in 1938. It was number 4 of 100 copies signed by Crowley on the limitation and included a full–page original pen and ink drawing by the author.

•    Lot #101, two first edition stitched pamphlets concerning anti-slavery and women's rights, was estimated at $300-500 and realized $15,600. They were written by Sarah Moore Grimké, (1792–1873) and Angelina (1805–1879) and titled An Address to Free Colored Americans and An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States. Both were published in New York by William S. Dorr in 1837. These were presented at the first Anti–Slavery Convention of American Women which met in NYC. The attendees were 175 women from ten different states. They represented 20 female antislavery groups who met to discuss their role in the American abolition movement.

•    Lot #26, an early edition of Jack London's (1876-1916) The Call of the Wild, delivered $13,200. It was published in New York by The Macmillan Co. in 1905. This example was inscribed by London presumably to the political activist Emma Goldman (1869–1940): “Dear Emma– never mind the new San Francisco; here’s to the new library. Affectionately yours, Jack London. Glen Ellen, Calif. June 15, 1906." The inscription references the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that destroyed most of the city, including the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford University.

•    Lot #365, a first edition, limited issue copy of Liber Scriptorum, was estimated at $10,000-15,000 and traded hands at $43,200.  It was printed in New York by the De Vinne Press for the Authors Club in 1893 and was number 124 of 251 copies produced. It consisted of original essays, stories, or poems contributed by 109 key writers of the era, including Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Carnegie. Each author signed every edition, including this example. The Author’s Club was organized in 1882 for “the promotion of social intercourse among authors”.

This event rounded out with a spectrum of other noteworthy publications, including ancient literature and examples with extraordinary bindings or illustrations.

•    Lot #234, Aristotle's (384–322 B.C.E.) Aristotelis Opera parts one and two, was estimated at $20,000-30,000 and sold for $45,600. These two Greek language volumes were edited by Aldus and others and printed in Venice by Aldus Manutius, in November, 1495 through February, 1498. Part one was Organon, or Logic, while part two was Natural Philosophy.  

•    Lot #272, The Poems of William Shakespeare (1564–1616), was estimated at $12,000-15,000 and realized $16,800. This book was published in Hammersmith by William Morris for the Kelmscott Press in 1893. This exquisite example was bound in leather and elaborately decorated with pontillé design gilt, tan levant endpapers, hand marbled endpapers, and top edge gilt. It included its original full green niger folding box decorated with matching Art Nouveau lettering.  

•    Lot #121, John James Audubon's (1785–1851) The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories, soared to $36,000. This eight volume collection was published in New York by George R. Lockwood in 1870 and included 500 hand-colored lithograph plates.

According to Christopher Brink, Potter & Potter Auctions' Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, "This sale proved that even when the market is in the dumps, books still remain supreme. We not only achieved many auction records but even several retail records. We continue to be one of the leaders in the market with strong prices in many major categories that include Americana, Exploration and Polar, and even Mark Twain. This year, our Book Department has grossed over $2.5m in total sales spanning just three major book auctions. Next year, we plan on doubling this goal with six major book sales covering multiple categories."