Albert Small’s High Spots

The Albert H. Small Collection goes on the block this Friday at Christie’s New York. The collection of high spots from a man who has been collecting for sixty years is dazzling -- we have Audubon, Shakespeare (as in second, third, and fourth folios), a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, and a Kelmscott Chaucer, plus a large selection of presidential autographs, various Declaration of Independence editions, and a hand-colored engraving of Paul Revere’s Bloody Massacre.

2655_38a.jpg Humphry Repton’s autograph manuscript “Red Book” for Sunning Hill, Berkshire the Seat of James Sibbald, Esq. 1790. Estimate $30,000-$50,000.

The selection of Humphry Repton manuscript books (one seen above) and other material are among the most “personal” items in the sale. In a special feature we ran on Mr. Small last autumn, he told us about his infatuation with the eighteenth-century British landscape artist:

He came across Repton’s work at the antiquarian book fair in New York in the early days of his collecting. Tired from walking up and down the aisles, he asked a bookseller if he could rest a moment on a seat in her booth. “I was sitting there looking at landscape and gardening materials and was struck by this gorgeous book unlike anything I had ever seen before,” he said. Small had in his hands a reproduction of one of Repton’s famed “red books,” one-of-a-kind volumes the designer presented to clients with descriptions and renderings of his proposed designs. “It was one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever see in my life,” Small said. He bought the book and now proudly claims ownership of the second largest collection of original Repton volumes in the United States. He admitted with a laugh that the leading collector only has four; Small has three.
 As of Friday, perhaps the leading collector will have seven.
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