Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Two volumes of classical poetry, one signed, both annotated throughout by Herman Melville, circa 1860, sold for $106,250, a record for Melville’s marginalia in works not written by the literary figure.

New York — Swann Galleries brought forth a remarkable offering of autographs, art, press and illustrated books, as well as nineteenth and twentieth century literature, in a Thursday, October 10 sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts.

A rare look at Herman Melville’s personal library topped the sale, with two volumes of Greek & Roman classics once owned by the author bringing $106,250. The offering marked the highest price paid for books inscribed by Melville in works not written by the literary figure. “Prices were especially strong for Americana, suggesting that collectors are remaining optimistic about a market that so powerfully encourages us to think about present-day America,” noted Marco Tomaschett, the house’s Autographs Specialist. Highlights among Americana included an autograph album with 30 items, including documents and letters, each signed by one of the first 32 Presidents of the United States, which reached $30,000; Davy Crocket was present with an uncommon franking signature addressed to Edward L. Carey and Abraham Hart, the eventual publishers of his autobiography, at $10,000; and a typed letter signed by Theodore Roosevelt to journalist and author Herman Bernstein, which earned $6,750.

Of the art, press and illustrated books offering Specialist Christine von der Linn commented, “I was thrilled with the international participation and the regional pride in the artists and authors featured. Many artists' books will be heading back to the states and countries of the creators' origin, and many into important institutions. It was a deep pleasure to help foster selections from the Sackner Archive into the hands of new collectors and witness strong and record prices for contemporary book creators like Tom Phillips and Timothy Ely.” Phillips’s interpretation of The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, 1983, brought a record for the artist at $21,250 and Ely’s unique artist’s book The Ice Papers, 1992, earned a record $6,000. Additional art books of note included William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job, a complete set of 22 engravings, 1826, which sold for $52,500; and Christopher Wool’s Black Book, 17 screenprints, 1989, which brought $20,000.

The nineteenth and twentieth century literature portion of the sale saw a number of auction records, including Infinite Jest, 1995, by David Foster Wallace ($8,750), The Virginian, 1902, by Owen Wister, ($8,125) and an inscribed copy of James Joyce's Two Tales of Shem and Shaun, 1932 ($7,250).

Swann Galleries is currently accepting consignments for the spring 2020 season. Visit or download the Swann Galleries App for more information. 

Courtesy Geographicus Rare Antique Maps and James Arsenault & Company

One of the most spectacular bird’s eye views of Boston ever published, this lithographic map of The City of Boston was published by O.H. Bailey & J. C. Hazen in 1879. With the built environment of the city rendered in meticulous detail. 28.625” x 44.125” plus margins.

Boston – The annual fall gathering for booklovers, the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair returns to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s beautiful Back Bay for its 43rd year, November 15-17, 2019. Featuring the collections and rare treasures of 132 booksellers from the U.S., England, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Hungary, and Argentina, the Boston Book Fair gives visitors the opportunity to see, learn about, and purchase the finest in rare and valuable books, illuminated manuscripts, autographs, graphics, maps, atlases, photographs, fine and decorative prints, and much more.
Among the highlighted items for sale at this year’s fair will be the 1879 Bailey & Hazen Map of Boston, one of the most spectacular bird’s eye views of Boston ever published; an extremely rare extant version of the Second Folio of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (with an epitaph from John Milton), 1632; Russian Suprematist art and design from the 1920s; a rare 18th century Italian illustrated book of dice and card games, mathematical riddles, sleight-of-hand, and magic; the first printing of Ernest Thayer's poem Casey at The Bat, 1901; a unique and significant collection of early 20th century documents from the National Liberal Immigration League; a set of Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion charts.(1662) from the Edo Period; the first edition of the 1611 King James “The Great He Bible,” arguably the most important book ever published in English; an extraordinary collection of early 20th century Japanese woodblock prints; Original Dr. Pepper Advertising Art from the early 1960s; and rare and first editions of works by Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, William Blake, Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Betty Friedan, Aldous Huxley, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Beatrix Potter, Ayn Rand, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Edith Wharton.

One of the oldest and most respected antiquarian book shows in the country, the event offers a top selection of items available on the international literary market. Attendees have the unique chance to get a close look at rare and historic museum-quality items, offered by some of the most prestigious participants in the trade. Whether just browsing or buying, the Fair offers something for every taste and budget—books on art, politics, travel, gastronomy, and science to sport, natural history, literature, music, and children’s books—all appealing to a range of bibliophiles and browsers.
Special events at this year’s fair kick off with an Opening Night celebration on Friday, Nov. 15 from 4-8pm; and feature talks with MFA curator Meghan Melvin on the exhibition “Kay Nielsen’s Enchanted Vision” (Saturday, Nov. 16 at 2:30pm); Getting Started in Family History, by Alice Kane from the New England Historic Genealogical Society (Saturday, Nov. 16 at 12:30pm); and The Graphic Revolution, a two-part exploration looking at the explosion in the collecting and creation of graphic novels and comic books in the 20th & 21st centuries, highlighted by a panel discussion led by noted scholar Hillary Chute with local authors Tim Finn, Liz Prince, and Nick Thorkelson (Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1pm & 2pm).  On Sunday from 1-3pm, attendees can bring in their own books for FREE APPRAISALS!  For full programming details visit

For attendees wanting to start a collection without breaking the bank, there will be dealers offering “Discovery” items priced at $100 or less, including a selection of children’s books and decorative cloth bindings. The Fair is an opportunity to learn tips on how to start a collection and talk to dealers who are experts in their specialties.

Tickets are $25 for Friday night’s exclusive Opening Night event, an opportunity for the public to get a first look at items for sale at the Fair; admission is free on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, November 15: 4:00-8:00pm, Tickets: $25.00 - Opening Night             

Saturday, November 16: 12:00-7:00pm, Free Admission                                       

Sunday, November 17: 12:00-5:00pm, Free Admission
Hynes Convention Center
900 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair is sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. A portion of the ticket sales will benefit the Boston Public Library and the American Antiquarian Society. Tickets are for sale at and at the show’s box office during Friday evening show hours. For more information, please visit or call 617-266-6540.

Courtesy of Christie's

John Forbes Nash, Jr., 1994. Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Estimate: $500,000–800,000. Sold to Benefit The John Nash Trust.

New York – Christie’s is pleased to announce the 25 October sale of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences awarded to John Forbes Nash, Jr. for his contributions to Game Theory (estimate: $500,000–800,000). The prize is housed in its original red morocco gilt case lettered “J.F. Nash” and comes with the Nobel Prize Diploma in its tan morocco gilt portfolio and original suede-lined blue cloth clamshell box.

Additionally, handwritten documents from Nash will be sold and include a c.1940s Bluefield, West Virginia high school trigonometry paper (estimate: $800–1,200) replete with encouraging words from Nash’s teacher, which the mathematician retained for the rest of his life. On the lined paper, the teacher writes to the nascent thinker: “I think you will really go places if you would only organize your work — otherwise your talent will be wasted.” On the verso he continues, “Remember: Your work is only useful insofar as it may be of use to other people.”

Other documents being offered include a group of rare 1950s offprints from Nash’s personal library — two of them annotated — illustrating his first great contributions to Game Theory (estimate: $2,500 – 3,500), a first edition of Nash’s 1951 doctoral thesis (estimate: $3,000 – 5,000), and a handwritten lecture on the history of Game Theory Nash gave at Princeton University in the 2000s (estimate: $2,000 – 3,000). Each of the lots in the group will be sold to benefit The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nash was known for his decades-long battle with schizophrenia.

Christie’s will also be offering the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences awarded to Reinhard Selten for refining Nash’s work (estimate: $200,000 – 300,000). A portion of proceeds from the sale of this lot will be donated to the California Institute of Technology.

Courtesy of University Archives

Leather-bound ledger from 1769-1770, a paymaster’s account book from a New York regiment that remained loyal to King George III during the American Revolution. Est. $10,000-12,000.

Westport, CT – A scarce first pressing of the 1963 album With the Beatles, signed by all four members of the group, a two-page letter written around 1895 by French artist Paul Gauguin, an Apollo 11 lunar color photo signed by all three astronauts on the mission, an 1833 copperplate engraving of the Declaration of Independence and a Walt Disney-signed animation cel depicting Mickey Mouse as an Argentine gaucho will all come up for bid on Tuesday, November 5th.

They’re just a few of the expected top lots in a stellar collection of manuscripts, rare books and Apollo-related items to be sold in an online-only auction by University Archives, at 10:30 am Eastern time. Categories include aviation and space, art, music, Americana, science, foreign leaders and royalty, business and finance and more. In all, 264 premier lots will come up for bid.

The catalog has already been posted online and bidding is available via, and Telephone and absentee bids will also be accepted. The auction is packed with an important selection of autographed documents, manuscripts, books and photos. Folks can visit the website and browse the catalog now at

“Attention history lovers and holiday shoppers,” announced John Reznikoff, the president and owner of University Archives. “The November 5th auction represents a remarkable – and affordable – sampling of rare items in many collecting categories. Maybe you can’t afford a genuine artwork by Monet, Degas, Matisse or Gauguin but you can own these artists’ autographed letters for a fraction of the price.”

Reznikoff continued, “Not planning on traveling to the moon anytime soon? Not to worry, you can purchase the autographs of the most famous astronauts and cosmonauts who actually did. Washington, D.C. might be too far away to visit, but you can consider acquiring early engravings of the Declaration of Independence produced by Huntington, Stone, Tyler and Binn instead.”

He added, “Have you ever wanted to visit the Great Pyramids or the Sphinx? Save the airfare and buy an authenticated piece of each. Eager to own mementos from the bygone age of rock ’n roll? How about a Beatles album signed by all four Beatles, Woody Guthrie’s hand-inscribed lyrics, or Buddy Holly’s stage-worn tie clip? We have a huge array of fine holiday gift options like these.”

The first pressing monaural copy of the album With the Beatles (later renamed Meet the Beatles) is signed by all four of the lads from Liverpool and is expected to realize $10,000-$12,000. The album has the misspelled song You Really Gotta Hold On Me on the back album sleeve. With the Beatles was released on November 22, 1963 – the very day President Kennedy was assassinated.

An identical estimate of $10,000-$12,000 has been given to the Apollo 11 lunar photo signed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The color photo – showing Buzz Aldrin gazing at the American flag while standing on the surface of the moon – is beautifully matted and comes with a letter of authenticity from a former employee of NASA. It’s also accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity from Zarelli Space Authentication. Also, a rare black and white photograph depicting six early Russian cosmonauts, signed by all six in Cyrillic along the lower margin (including Russia’s first man in space, Yuri Gagarin), 9 inches by 5 ½ inches, with several certificates of authenticity, should sell for $2,000-$2,400.

The two-page letter handwritten in French and signed by renowned French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), was penned two months before his final departure for Tahiti and right after his split from his wife (who he possibly refers to in the letter as “the little snake”). The letter, with the original envelope, is presented in a handsome mat along with a reproduction of a Gauguin self-portrait (est. $15,000-$17,000).

The copperplate engraving of the Declaration of Independence, printed on thin wove paper in 1833, as the country’s 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain approached, has an estimate of $15,000-$17,000. It’s imprinted bottom left, “W.J. Stone SC Washn” (William J. Stone for Peter Force, Washington, D.C.) and housed in a frame measuring 32 ¾ inches by 37 ½ inches.

The circa 1940 Walt Disney-signed animation cel with original background art depicting Mickey Mouse as an Argentine gaucho is from the studio’s south-of-the-border features – the result of a goodwill tour of Latin America by Disney himself. The limited-edition framed and matted cel, inscribed “To Michael R. Nex, all Best Wishes, Walt Disney,” should rise to $3,000-$3,500.

A one-page letter written and signed by then-President elect Abraham Lincoln, dated Jan. 24, 1861, addressed to Ulysses Doubleday (the brother of baseball’s Abner Doubleday), regarding the tense situation in Charleston’s harbor just three months before the firing on Fort Sumter, is estimated to reach $10,000-$12,000; as is a leather-bound ledger from 1769-1770, signed by over 200 soldiers from the New York 16th Regiment of Foot. It’s a paymaster’s account book from a regiment that would remain loyal to King George III during the American Revolution.

Two lots with roots in France share estimates of $3,000-$3,500 each. The first is a two-page letter written in French and signed by the Impressionist painter Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), penned in November 1907 to the art critic Felix Feneon, and beautifully matted alongside a color reproduction of one of Monet’s water lily studies. The second is a three-page letter written and signed by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), also in French, in 1807, regarding the Polish Campaign, War of the 4th Coalition.

A letter signed by Winston Churchill in 1936, addressed to the chief copy editor for his publishers, in which Churchill sends more chapters for Volume III of the four-volume biography of his ancestor, John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), should garner $3,000-$4,000. Also, a two-page letter written and signed by Eli Whitney in 1802, eight years after he invented the cotton gin, possibly regarding Savannah cotton contacts, has an estimate of $2,000-$2,400.

University Archives has become world-renowned as a go-to source for rare items of this kind. It is actively seeking quality material for future auctions, presenting a rare opportunity for sellers. Anyone who has a single item or a collection that may be a fit for a future University Archives auction may call Mr. Reznikoff at 203-454-0111, or email him at

University Archives was founded in 1979, as a division of University Stamp Company, by Mr. Reznikoff, who started collecting stamps and coins in 1968, while in the third grade. Industry-wide, Reznikoff is considered the leading authenticity expert for manuscripts and documents. He consults with law enforcement, dealers, auction houses and both major authentication companies.
For more information about University Archives and the Wednesday, November 5th online-only auction, please visit For phone bidding, please call 203-454-0111.

Courtesy of Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs

Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey’s Rome, Forum, Boeufs, 1842. Quarter plate daguerreotype.

New York — In conjunction with a new exhibition that highlights animals in photography, the search is on for the earliest photograph ever made of an animal. By Hoof, Paw, Wing or Fin: Creatures in Photographs, on view through November 15, 2019 at Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, explores some of the ways in which photographers have represented animals over the course of the medium’s history.
A few days before the show opened in September, a contender for the first photograph of an animal arrived quite unexpectedly at the gallery. The daguerreotype, by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, depicts cattle reclining by their carts in the Roman Forum or at a cattle market in Rome.
According to the chronology established by Stephen Pinson in Monumental Journey, the Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019), one of de Prangey’s first stops on his Mediterranean journey was Rome from April to July 1842. Since it appears that this was the only time he worked in Rome, this daguerreotype of cattle can be precisely dated April to July 1842, and is possibly the earliest firmly dated photograph of any animal.
Rome, Forum, Boeufs was not included in the remarkable Girault de Prangey exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum (30 January - 12 May 2019). The exhibition By Hoof, Paw, Wing or Fin at Hans P. Kraus Fine Photographs marks the first time this daguerreotype has been on public view.

Courtesy of Grant Zahajko Auctions

Two pages from Robert Osborne’s personal copy of the 1979 book he authored titled 50 Golden Years of Oscar®: The Official History of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Book contains 383 autographs of Oscar winners and nominees. Pages shown here were signed by stars of Gone With The Wind. Sold for $12,500.

Davenport, WA – An Oscar® statuette awarded in 1936 to acclaimed art director Richard Day led the lineup of Hollywood memorabilia sold by Grant Zahajko Auctions on October 10, capturing a winning bid of $50,000. The Oscar® was the most highly prized item in the personal collection of the late Robert Osborne, best known as the quietly authoritative host of Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

The Oscar® was awarded to Richard Day for his work on the 1935 film The Dark Angel, starring Fredric March and Merle Oberon. Day was nominated for 20 Academy Awards® between the years 1930 and 1970, and won seven, including Best Art Direction for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954).

“We were honored to represent the heirs of Robert Osborne and to be able to bring an Oscar to the marketplace,” said Grant Zahajko, owner of Grant Zahajko Auctions in Davenport, Washington. “The sale of Oscars is strictly controlled by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it’s always exciting for collectors when they have an opportunity to bid on one.” The new owner of the Oscar® statuette has chosen to remain anonymous.

Another key item in the collection was Robert Osborne’s personal copy of the 1979 book he authored, 50 Golden Years of Oscar®: The Official History of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For decades, Osborne sought and secured the autographs of Oscar®-winning stars at red carpet and other media events. The autographs were signed on pages specific to the films for which the stars had won their awards. The book contained no fewer than 383 signatures and sold for $12,500.

In spite of a snowstorm that passed through the Spokane area the day before the auction, the gallery event was very well attended and also attracted heavy bidding via the Internet. Many collectors reveled in the Osborne collection’s abundance of rare movie studio publicity stills, including a photo of Hollywood’s first Chinese-American film star, Anna May Wong, which sold for $1,000. A fully authenticated, autographed photo of Babe Ruth from the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees commanded a winning bid of $11,250.

Part II of the Robert Osborne collection will be auctioned on November 7. To contact Grant Zahajko Auctions for comment or to enquire about future auctions, call 509-725-5600 or email Online:

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Ludovico Carracci, St. Luke, red chalk, circa 1585-88. Estimate $8,000-12,000.

New York — In addition to Swann Galleries’ biannual sale of Old Master Through Modern Prints, the house will offer a curated sale of Old Master Drawings on November 5. The auction traces the development of draftsmanship over several centuries from late-Gothic, early-Renaissance works of the fifteenth century, to Baroque and Rococo drawings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The Italian Renaissance is represented by early-sixteenth-century studies of eagles ($4,000-6,000); Christ’s Charge to Peter from the circle of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, based on one of Raphael’s cartoons painted as designs for tapesties ($5,000-8,000); and Ludovico Carracci’s St. Luke, red chalk, circa 1585-88 ($8,000-12,000).

Baroque works of note include The Holy Spirit Appearing to St. Gregory, red chalk, late 1640s, by Il Guercino, offered at $8,000 to $12,000; and Scenes from the Battle of Vienna: A Pair, pen and wash, circa 1685, by Francesco Monti, Il Brescianino—expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000. Pietro Antonio Novelli’s A Young Woman Washing Linen, pen and ink, is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.

A collection of nineteenth-century French works on paper from the estate of the esteemed New York art dealer Eric Carlson, who specialized in French academic and realist drawings, complements the offerings of earlier works. Highlights from the selection are Théodore Géricault’s preparatory drawing for the same-titled lithograph La Giaour, pen, ink and pencil, 1820 ($7,000-10,000); Notre Dame and the Île de la Cité, Paris, watercolor, 1864, by Louis-Adolphe Hervier ($2,000-3,000); and an 1859 color pastel work A Landscape at Dusk with Rolling Hills by Joseph Alfred Belelt du Poisat ($1,000-1,500). Of particular note is an 1833 ink, wash and pencil study by Eugène Delacroix ($3,000-5,000). The preparatory work was created for the allegorical decorations of the Salon du Roi in the Palais Bourbon in Paris—his first large-scale government commission.

Additional French works include two circa-1820 pencil drawings by Delacroix, apparently loosely based on figures in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, offered at $7,000 to $10,000. Laurent de la Hyre’s black chalk and pencil preparatory drawing St. Peter Healing the Sick, for his 1635 painting May de Notre Dame, is available at $15,000 to $20,000. Henri-Edmond Cross’s pointalist watercolor The Sower, circa 1890, is expected to bring $15,000 to $20,000. Dutch, Flemish, German and English draughtsmen round out the stellar offering.

Exhibition opening in New York City October 25. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries App.

Courtesy of Bonhams

Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James") denying accusations of being a horse thief. Estimate: $200,000-300,000

New York – An extremely rare, documented letter of outlaw Jesse James highlights Bonhams sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts on October 23. This letter is one of only three known to exist outside the family. It has an estimate of $200,000-300,000.
Darren Sutherland, Bonhams Specialist of Books & Manuscripts, comments: “This is everything you'd want in a Jesse James letter - the protest of innocence and the simmering threat. James letters are very rare in the market with all but a few examples with the family.”
Jesse W. James, one of America’s most notorious outlaws, writes a heated letter to Mr. Flood, who accuses Jesse and his brother Frank had stolen a horse from Dr. William J. Yates. “...Do you suppose if we were thieves we would Steal a horse from one that has been so kind to Mother as Dr Yates has no far from it ... and they are no men in Mo. who scurn horse thieves more than we do & if we were free men we would do all in our power to put it down Clint Allen of Liberty made Similar remarks about us to Sam Wardin a few days ago but he will probily regret it ... if you value your life you had better retrace your Slander. Jesse W. James.”
On January 25, 1875, the James's farm in Kearney, Missouri, was raided, and James’s 9-year old half-brother Archie was killed and his mother Zerelda Samuel lost her right arm. One of the first doctors to arrive was William G. Yates. James's debt to Dr. Yates is on display in the letter, and it is significant that he employs Yates, whose stolen horse is in question, to deliver the letter to Flood.


Courtesy of The Booker Prize

Winner Margaret Atwood with her specially bound edition of The Testaments, bound by Stephen Conway.

London — The six shortlisted novels for the Booker Prize 2019 will be on public display at Bonhams Knightsbridge this October, in unique bindings designed for them by Fellows of Designer Bookbinders. The bound books, which were presented to the finalists at the Awards ceremony on 14 October, will be on show in the foyer of Bonhams, Montpelier Street from Wednesday 16 October – Friday 1 November (9.00 – 17.30 weekdays; 11.00–15.00 Sundays. Closed Saturdays).

The joint winners of the 2019 Booker Prize were, Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo (binding by Sue Doggett), and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (binding by Stephen Conway). The Booker Prize has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners. The 2019 winners will share the £50,000 prize money.

The four other novels on the sort list, with the name of the Designer Bookbinders Fellows in bold, were:

    •    Quichotte by Salman Rushdie: Mark Cockram
    •    10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak: Angela James
    •    Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann: Tom McEwan
    •    An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma: Nicky Oliver

Hand-bound fine bindings can take many months to complete, but with the Booker Prize the Fellows must execute the twenty-five stages involved in the four to five weeks between the announcement of the shortlist and the Awards ceremony.

Also on display, will be some bindings by Philip Smith (1928-2018), including an enormous “book wall” tower of Dante’s Inferno, and a number of bindings for Booker Prize shortlisted novels from previous years.

Photography by Janny Chiu, 2019.

Binding by Jacques-Antoine Derome for Marie Leczinska, with the queen's arms under mica. Le Pseautier de David, traduit en francois, avec des notes courtes, tirées de S. Augustin, & des autres Peres. Nouvelle edition, Paris: Chez Louis Josse et Charles Robustel, 1725. W 1028.

New York — The Morgan Library & Museum announced today the acquisition of an unparalleled collection of eighteenth-century French manuscripts and bindings bequeathed earlier this year by Mrs. Jayne Wrightsman in honor of her dear friend and longtime Morgan board member Mrs. Annette de la Renta. This gift builds on J. Pierpont Morgan’s original holdings and complements other important collections, such as the French illustrated books bequeathed to the Morgan by Gordon N. Ray and the French literary classics donated by the Heineman Foundation.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Jayne Wrightsman assembled one of the greatest collections of eighteenth-century French bindings in private hands, perhaps second only to the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor. Her achievements as a book collector were recognized by the Roxburghe Club, which elected her to be one of its forty members. J. Pierpont Morgan was the first American to receive that honor, and he too acquired important bindings of that era.

Mrs. Wrightsman recognized the important role bookbinding played in the decorative arts and the cultural life of the ancien régime. Elaborately embellished bindings with armorial bearings signaled the rank, wealth, taste, and learning of titled bibliophiles. Many of the Wrightsman bindings are works of art in their own right and were displayed in her stately apartment in conjunction with complementary decorative arts and furniture, often from the same period. Some of the bindings have been attributed to Luc-Antoine Boyet, Antoine-Michel Padeloup, Nicolas-Denis Derome, and other proprietors of workshops active in the eighteenth century.

“It is a great honor to receive such an extensive gift of eighteenth-century French manuscripts and bindings from a long time supporter of the Morgan, Mrs. Jayne Wrightsman,” states Colin B. Baily, Director of the Morgan Library and Museum. “Mrs. Wrightsman’s bequest is an incomparable addition to the Morgan’s collections. We look forward to displaying these treasures in the near future.”

Among the illustrated books are the two great editions of La Fontaine: the four-volume folio with plates after Jean-Baptiste Oudry and the “Fermiers Généraux” two-volume octavo with plates after Charles Eisen, both bound in gilt-tooled dentelle morocco. Also included are books on politics, religion, court entertainments, music, and military strategy. Altogether, the collection contains 19 manuscripts, 149 printed books in 177 volumes, and 10 watercolors of botanical subjects.