Auctions | September 11, 2014

Travel Back in Time to Early New Orleans at Bonhams


San Francisco—Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house, presents a selection of rare historical works surrounding early Louisiana in its auction of Fine Books and Manuscripts on September 22 in San Francisco, following a preview from September 19-21. 

Perhaps most interesting of the group is an extremely rare broadside from 1769 regulating the number of bars, pool halls and cabarets in the young city of New Orleans. It was signed by then Louisiana governor Alejandro O'Reilly (1722-1794) and is estimated at $10,000-15,000.

It is only the third broadside edict to be printed in New Orleans immediately after O'Reilly arrived in the city and took formal possession of Louisiana in August of 1769. It tends to show that New Orleans has not changed so much in almost 250 years, though the official attitude towards it has. In this broadside, the new governor complains that one of the principal causes of disorder in the city is due to the large number of bars, billiard rooms and cabarets. 

Also on offer is a very rare Civil War broadside proclaiming the secession of Louisiana, estimated at $6,000-8,000. It features a Louisiana Republic flag that was only in use for two weeks, in between Louisiana’s adoption of this ordinance on January 26, 1861 and its joining the Confederacy on February 8 of that year. 

Another rare document in the auction has to do with real estate in Florida and Louisiana in the 18th century. It comprises 38 regulations governing the disposition of land in west Florida and Louisiana by Juan Ventura Morales (1756-1819), printed in July of 1799, and estimated at $4,000-6,000. The rare booklet details the manner in which lands were parceled out amongst new inhabitants, as well as responsibilities of the settlers. For example, settlers given land along the Mississippi were required to build levees and canals, maintain the royal roads and build bridges over all canals within the first year of settling, or risk losing their land.

There is also a rare first edition of “New Orleans Characters,” printed in New Orleans in 1876 and featuring 16 full-page vibrant color plates by Leon Fremaux, estimated at $4,000-6,000. The plates feature street characters and vendors, depicted with the lively insouciance associated with the city. 

For more information about the sale, please visit