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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Olympic Gold

The 1906 Athens Games, Mullocks, Ludlow, $9,005

The Olympic Games at Athens, an official, illustrated account of the 1906 Olympics compiled by James E. Sullivan, founder of the Amateur Athletic Union and the U.S. commissioner to the games, was published by the American Sports Publishing Company. This copy, one of the high spots of a sports memorabilia sale on April 1, retains the original wrappers but has been bound in cloth gilt boards and stamped on the front cover with the name of the original owner, Fred Wenck—a swimmer and gold medallist in water polo who later headed the New York State Athletic Commission.

Sullivan’s name, of course, is commemorated in the AAU Sullivan award, the Oscar of sports awards, which since 1930 been presented annually to one of America’s outstanding athletes. Last year it went to gymnast Shawn Johnson, who won the balance-beam gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.

Priced at 10 cents when published, this Olympic rarity sold at £6,085 ($9,005).

Sports Illustrated

Game-Book Ink Drawings, Dominic Winter, South Cerney, $13,045

Captain Henry Vaughan Hart-Davis, a member of a prominent publishing family, was a talented artist whose published work includes Stalking Sketches of 1904 and the illustrations for Chats on Angling of 1906. Hart-Davis the country sportsman also added fine illustrations to the hundred or so pages of a game- book he kept during the years 1890–1914. To the usual details of each shoot (date, place, number of guns, birds bagged, etc.) he added a series of meticulous ink drawings, some of them with watercolour washes. As one would expect, these include studies of game birds, gun dogs, stags, and the like, but there are also fishing scenes, even golfers in full swing.

Entered for an April 8–9 sale by a descendant, that very special game-book was accompanied by some related family material, including copies of the above-mentioned books—not in great condition, but inscribed to his son. The lots sold at £8,812 ($13,045) to UK natural history specialist and country sports dealer Iain Grahame.

Birthday Present

1868 Photograph of Charles Darwin, Keys, Aylsham, $37,445

The bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth has already brought a great deal of celebratory media coverage (in the UK, at least), so naturally the salerooms have climbed aboard the evolution bandwagon, as well.

One of the best results seen so far this year was this photograph of Darwin, signed by the great man himself and inscribed “From Life Registered Photograph Copyright Julia Margaret Cameron.” (Another 1868 portrait by this pioneering and very collectable photographer is more frequently seen and reproduced, in which Darwin faces the other direction.) In this English provincial sale of April 30, the photograph sold for £25,300 ($37,445), five times the estimate.

The winning bid stole some of the glory from what had been promoted as the star lot: an 1859, first issue in original cloth of On the Origin of Species. That sold for a fairly predictable £40,250 ($59,570), but a handful of exceptional copies of this seminal work have made very high prices indeed. In December 2007 the former Houghton Library copy, an extraordinarily bright, fresh, and entirely unrestored volume with a note signed by Darwin tipped-in, made $325,000 at Sotheby’s New York.

A Better Bagel

19th-Century Kosher Cookbook, Kestenbaum, New York, $22,140

“Without violating the precepts of our religion, a table can be spread, which will satisfy the appetites of the most fastidious,” wrote Esther Levy, whose Jewish Cookery Book (Philadelphia, 1871) was the first to be published in the U.S.

Esther’s aim was to add social polish to Jewish home cooking while staying true to the tenets of the Jewish faith. Apart from standard recipes, some specially adapted to meet the special requirements of her target audience, she provided information on diets for invalids and various medicinal recipes, as well as practical hints for the Jewish housekeeper.

Kosher cookery books have been selling well of late, according to these specialist auctioneers, and a first edition copy seen in their April 2 sale—well preserved in the publisher’s boards—was bid to $22,140, double the estimate.

Last December, Kestenbaum took a record bid of $11,070 on a copy of the very first kosher cookbook in the English language, The Jewish Manual of 1846, by “a lady” now known to be Lady Judith Montefiore.

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