Auctions | April 18, 2012

Successful Sale of Serendipity Books (Part II) at Bonhams

San Francisco—Bonhams is pleased to announce a sales total of $504,332 from its Period Art & Design sale, April 15-16 in San Francisco. The auction featured Property from Serendipity Books Part II: Literature and Poetry, and a strong selection of European paintings and 20th century designs, which attracted a broad audience of bidders.

Highlighting the Property from Serendipity Books Part II was a collection of 24 works by Ross Macdonald, aka Kenneth Millar (American-Canadian, 1915-1983) that brought $1,375, against a pre-sale estimate of $400-600. The lot included first editions of Trouble Follows Me, The Doomsters, The Ferguson Affair and Self-Portrait: Ceaselessly into the Past, which is also a signed, limited edition.

Also of great success was the $1,063 sale of 18 volumes of works by Henry James (American, 1843-1916), including first English editions of The Tragic Muse, Embarrassments and The Private Life (est. $300-500). Following this was the $1,000 sale of approximately 50 items by Hugh MacDiarmid, aka Christopher Murray Grieve (Scottish, 1892-1978), including a signed, limited edition of MacDiarmid, An Illustrated Biography, Gordon Wright Publishing; a first edition of Collected Poems; and a first edition of A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (est. $300-500).

Further notable highlights included a lot of five limited edited volumes by Robinson Jeffers (American, 1887-1962), including The Women at Point Sur (signed), Descent to the Dead (signed) and Themes in My Poems, which brought $750 (est. $300-500), as well as a lot of 15 volumes primarily by Joseph Conrad (Polish, 1857-1924), with two by Jessie Conrad and a critical work by Richard Curle, that took in $750 (est. $300-500). Included within the lot were first editions of Romance: A Novel (with Ford Madox Hueffer); Chance: A Tale in Two Parts; and The Inheritors: An Extravagant Story (with Ford Madox Heuffer).

Also of note were the sales of a first edition copy of Setting Free the Bears by John Irving (American, 1942-), which brought $688 (est. $250-400); a later edition of Ulysses by James Joyce (Irish, 1882-1941), which took in $688 (est. $300-500); 20 items by Robert Frost (American, 1874-1963), including a first edition of A Boy's Will, a first edition of New Hampshire and a signed, limited edition of Robert Frost, Original "Ordinary Man” by Sidney Cox that sold for $625 (est. $100-200); and 32 volumes of works, in whole or part, by William Stanley Merwin (American, 1927-), including a first edition of The Dancing Bears; unrevised proofs of Houses and Travellers; and a signed and inscribed first edition of Selected Translations, 1948-1968 that brought $600 (est. $200-400).

The late owner of Serendipity Books, Peter Howard (1939-2011), has been eulogized as “one of the most imaginative booksellers of his generation.” Howard stocked not only individual titles, but entire collections.  He wanted people to search for their books, looking carefully and hopefully finding not only what they were looking for, but far more.

From other sections of the spring Period Art & Design sale came top lots of decorative arts. Leading the highlights were two lots that brought $10,625: a Chinese famille verte porcelain jardinière (est. $800-1,200) and Portrait of a young woman, a watercolor, pastel and charcoal on paper by Laura Knight (British, 1877-1970) that was inspired by Knight’s visit to a Baltimore children’s hospital in 1927. Also inspired by the visit was a second Knight piece, Portrait of a young man, in watercolor and charcoal on paper, which did well, bringing $8,750 (est. $700-900).

More paintings highlighted in the sale included The Cosmic Rays Resuscitating the Soft Watches, a color lithograph on wove paper, signed in pencil and numbered 25/150, by Salvador Dali (Spanish, 1904-1989), which brought $6,000 (est. $1,200-1,800). This piece was Property from the Estate of Moses and Ruth Helen Lasky, San Francisco, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, for the benefit of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts.

Also of note, with strong provenance from the estate of the Honorable Isabella Horton Grant (1923-2011), San Francisco, was an English School, oil on canvas set of four paintings: Going to the meet, The chase, The find and The death, which sold for $5,625 (est. $1,000-1,500).

Two other successful painting sales included: Fruta, an oil on canvas by Valetta Swan (British/Mexican, 1904-1973) that brought $5,250 (est. $2,000-3,000) from the Collection of the artist, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City; and a pair of 17th Century Dutch School works in oil on canvas laid down on panel of A portrait of a gentleman with a ruff and A portrait of a lady, which sold for $5,000 (est. $4,000-6,000).

Rounding out the sale were highlights of a Louis XVI style brass mounted mahogany bedroom suite from the first quarter of the 20th century that took in $5,625 (est. $3,000-5,000); two 13th/14th century celadon glazed twin-fish dishes that brought $6,000 (est. $800-1,200); and a group of three porcelain vases, two with the Kangxi mark and one with the Qianlong mark, that brought $5,250 (est. $600-800).

About the Auction Category: This monthly event includes paintings, prints, rugs, lighting, mirrors, antique furniture, modern designer furniture, decorative accents, silver and much more, with many in the $500-$5,000 price range. The property is hand selected to include items that would appeal to collectors of all levels, interior designers and those who may want to find a unique piece for their home. Sourced primarily from the West Coast, the majority of the property comes from exclusive sources - from high-profile Napa Valley estates filled with contemporary designer furnishings to Pacific Heights homes, embellished with antiques and unique decor. Many of these homes have been styled by high-profile Bay Area interior designers. Each auction catalog features an interview with a prominent interior designer with their take on current design trends.