Auctions | April 30, 2015

Audubon Manuscripts and Redoute Watercolors Headline Swann Galleries’ May 19 Auction


New York—On Tuesday, May 19 Swann Galleries will conduct an auction of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books with works by John James Audubon, rare views, maps and atlases, as well as a number of original watercolors and drawings.

Featured in the run of works related to Audubon are two manuscripts: an 1827 Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Lucy, in which he discusses plans to send a copy of Birds of America to soon-to-be President Andrew Jackson, and his intentions for his family’s set (estimate: $8,000 to $12,000). Another Autograph Manuscript, unsigned, is Audubon’s 1826 working draft for his Ornithological Biography entry on the Red-Winged Starling. It is being offered with the corresponding plates from both the first octavo and the double elephant folio editions of Birds of America ($15,000 to $25,000).

Other Audubon graphics include the Baltimore Oriole, Plate 12 ($10,000 to $15,000); the Summer or Wood Duck, Plate CCVI, ($20,000 to $30,000); the Wood Ibiss, Plate CCXVI, ($30,000 to $50,000), all hand-colored plates from the double elephant edition of Birds of America. A desirable image from Viviparous Quadrupeds is the Lynx Canadensis, Plate XVI, 1840s ($7,000 to $10,000).

A notable American view is Edward Bailey’s Honolulu as Seen from the Foot of Puawaina, Punch-Bowl Hill, printed on the island at the Lahainalua Seminary press in 1838. The engraving itself is exceptionally scarce, and the present example includes a contemporary manuscript key written by the missionary Lucia Garratt Smith, documenting important houses and landmarks around colonial Honolulu ($20,000 to $30,000).


Standouts in this auction are several accomplished watercolors on vellum by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Called “the Raphael of flowers,” Redouté was the official artist of Empress Josephine, and the five finished works by the artist in this auction were drawn from her gardens, most notably Malmaison. The top lot among these is Redouté’s drawing in watercolor, graphite and ink on vellum of the Crocus Sativus, or saffron crocus, circa 1802-16 ($12,000 to $18,000).

A collection of eleven watercolors of cannons and mortars from the late 18th century is also impressive among original works in the auction. Exquisitely rendered, the large-scale drawings show specific fieldpieces from multiple angles and may have been made by accomplished cadets or officers in German-speaking Europe ($12,000 to $18,000). 

The top lot is Pieter Goos’s De Zee-Atlas / Ofte Water-Wereld, an atlas with 41 engraved maps, including 39 double-page maps, a folding map and an additional map of New Jersey, all with original hand-color in outline. Published in Amsterdam in 1672, this important atlas is estimated at $70,000 to $100,000. An earlier De Zee-Atlas by Hendrik DonckerAmsterdam, circa 1660, is also in the sale ($60,000 to $90,000). Both represent the height of Dutch sea cartography and come from separate private collections.

Other important atlases include Johannes de Laet’s Novus Orbis seu Discriptionis Indiae Occidentalis Libri XVII, Leiden, 1633, called by Burden “the finest description of the Americas published in the seventeenth century” ($10,000 to $15,000); Louis Rednard’s Atlas de la navigation, Amsterdam, 1715 ($30,000 to $50,000); and P. da Medina’s L’Arte del navegar, Venice, 1554, the first Italian edition of the first reliable pilot for New World waters, also noteworthy as the first practical treatise on navigation ($8,000 to $12,000).

A map of note is The North part of American Conteyning Newfoundland, new England, Virginia, Florida . . . and upon ye West the large and goodly Iland of California by Henry Briggs. A cornerstone for collectors of depictions of California as an Island, the double-page engraved map, printed in London, 1625, is also an important early map for the English colonies in North America ($8,000 to $12,000).

The auction will begin at 1:30 pm. on Tuesday, May 19. The material will be on public exhibition Thursday, May 14 and Friday, May 15 from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, May 16 from noon to 5 pm, Monday, May 18 from 10 am to 6 pm and Tuesday, May 19 from 10 am to noon.

 An illustrated catalogue with information on bidding by mail or fax is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to arrange in advance to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Alex Clausen at (212) 254-4710, extension 17, or via email at

Live online bidding is also available via