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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Old Fox, New Tails

1539 Reynard the Fox, Stockholms Auktionsverk, Skr 120,000

A sale held on June 12, 2008, by Stockholms Auktionsverk included a rare 1539, Rostock printing by Ludwig Dietz of the story of Reynard the Fox, as we know him in the English-speaking world. This German edition of the adventures of “Reynke Vosz,” a favorite figure in medieval folklore, is illustrated with some 44 woodcuts—some repeats and a few colored—attributed to Erhard Altdorfer, along with over 50 smaller woodcut vignettes in the text and margins, depicting medieval classes and professions such as the nobility, clergy, merchants, lawyers, peasants and laborers.

Illustrated here are a spread showing one of the principal cuts, along with the title page, in which a fox crouches in the pediment of a classical façade, while below, merchants display fox tails for sale.

In a contemporary if slightly worn, soiled and restored binding of blind-tooled pigskin over wooden boards, the book showed some worming as well as some red underlining and marginal notes, but overall it was a clean and crisp copy and Reynard found a new home at Skr 120,000 ($15,910).

What Pharoah Said

19th Century Egyptologist’s Study, Christie’s New York, $62,500

Jean-François Champollion’s Lettre à M. Dacier… relative a l’alphabet des Hieroglyphiques Phonétiques, published in 1822, contained his initial researches into deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs and folding litho plates that illustrate those to which he had assigned phonetic values or associated the with phonetic sounds of Greek letters. From this modest start Champollion was eventually able to progress to a fuller decipherment of ancient Egyptian texts and to lay the foundations for modern Egyptological studies. One of only three copies seen at auction in the last 30 years was offered as part of the Richard Green library at Christie’s New York on June 17, 2008, and sold at $62,500.

On the subject of cracking cyphers and codes, that Green sale also included a German three-rotor Enigma enciphering machine, c.1939, that sold at $104,500 to London dealers, Maggs.

London’s Calling

First Edition, White Fang, PBA Galleries, $27,000

Printed on a coarse grayish-green paper and duplicating the illustration that is executed in black and cream on the dark bluish-green cloth covers, the dust jacket produced by Macmillan in New York for the 1906, first edition of Jack London’s novel, White Fang, is today a very rare sight indeed.

There was a crease across the example seen in a PBA Galleries of San Francisco sale of September 18, 2008, and in parts that crease had developed into small splits. But with so few copies in jackets known, many buyers were moved to ignore this blemish. It sold for $27,000, setting an auction record for any of Jack London’s books—narrowly pipping the $26,250 record set by the a copy of The Call of the Wild at Sotheby’s New York in June of last year.

Babe in Arms

Babe Ruth Autograph, Dominic Winter UK, £2,350

In a land where the rarest baseball cards trade in the financial stratosphere, Babe Ruth is an iconic figure. Earlier last year, a bidder paid $517,000 for a Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie card of 1914. Something much more modestly priced, but surely very desirable for any serious baseball collector, was seen at auction on October 2, 2008: In an undated typed letter, an English autograph hunter, C.R.G. Harris, addresses Babe Ruth as “Dear Madam” and continues, “I am a keen autograph hunter and already have a number of autographed photos of other radio, stage and screen stars. However, I would be very much obliged if you would add to my collection and trust you will fulfill my wishes.” A no doubt bemused Babe Ruth kindly obliged and returned the letter after adding a brief note in blue ink, “Sincerely Babe Ruth, A Ball player not a girl.”

The letter was sold at £2,350 ($3,995) to Babe Ruth Autographs, sports memorabilia dealers of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, but this is the sort of thing that one suspects has much further to go in financial terms.

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