Auctions | January 30, 2018

Top Prices at PBA Galleries' Americana Auction

wells fargo.jpgPBA Galleries continued their strong start in 2018 with their January 25th Americana - Travel & Exploration - World History - Cartography sale. The auction offered five hundred lots of rare and significant items of historical, cultural, and visual interest, including books, manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera, with a particularly strong gathering of cartographic material. Ranging from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, with much on California history, to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and the bayous of the Old South, the Americana section offered original material capturing the dynamic growth and culture of the New World over the centuries. Next, they traveled to the far reaches of the globe, the mysteries of the occident and orient were unveiled. Finally, the charting of the world over five centuries included maps of the East Indies, Asia, Europe, and the lands of the western hemisphere, with many scarce maps of the towns and cities of California.

The highlight of the sale was an 1875 Wells Fargo Reward Poster for “Alkali Jim” which sold for $10,200. The poster advertised a reward of $100 for the capture of “Wm Harrington, alias Wm. Waverly, alias Chas. Johnson, alias Jas. W. Clark, alias Alkali Jim” and was issued following his escape from San Quentin Prison on July 17th, 1875. Alkali Jim, along with his partners Charles Cooper and William Miner, had been convicted in 1872 for the 1871 armed robbery of a Wells, Fargo & Co. stage coach near San Andreas, California. Bidding was vigorous with phone bidders competing against those online for the single letterpress sheet.

A rare copper-engraved chart of the Straits of Singapore from 1711 led the cartography section of the sale selling for $6,600. This rare and important hand-colored map is oriented with north to the right. Its prime significance when issued was its depiction of the routes through the labyrinth of islands in the straits to Borneo and Java. Singapore and other settlements in the straights grew as a means to control the area which was secured by Britain in 1824. The imprint on this chart reads "By Iohn Thornton Hydrographer at the Sign of England Scotland and Ireland in the Minories London."

The high point of the Travel & Exploration section of the sale was a collection of approximately 92 glass lantern slides and other related photographs, postcards and a diary selling for $6.000. The glass slides, most hand-colored, provide a fascinating photographic record of a mission by the Lutheran Pastor George Bayard Young to Armenia and Turkey in 1919 to offer aid following the Armenian genocide. The disturbing images of piles of bones and poignant pictures of orphans were taken for presentations to raise relief funds in the U.S.

Books also did well in the sale.  The Manuscript Edition of The Writings of John Muir drew spirited bidding and saw the hammer fall at $5,100. Edited by William Frederic Badè and illustrated with numerous photogravure and halftone plates, the set is bound in the special deluxe half black morocco with leather edges ruled in gilt, spines lettered in gilt and with beautiful gilt-stamped floral vignettes, raised bands and matching endpapers. A manuscript leaf by Muir from Chapter 4 of The Mountains of California is mounted to front preliminary flyleaf of Volume 1 and Volumes 1-8 also contain an original gelatin silver photograph.

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 (415) 989-2665 or