Auctions | January 10, 2019

The Book Beautiful: An Array of Fine Press Rarities at Swann

Swann Baskin.jpgNew York-Swann Galleries opens their winter season with a boutique sale of Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics on Tuesday, January 29. Coinciding with Bibliography Week in New York City, the auction offers fine books, design and contemporary volumes with work from collections of notable bibliophiles, as well as twentieth-century livres d’artiste and Art Deco masterworks. 

The collection of Richard Lee Callaway forms the cornerstone of the fine printing and private press section of the sale. Callaway was a longtime friend and admirer of artist Alan James Robinson. Through their relationship Callaway became involved in The Press of the Sea Turtle-an incarnation of the Cheloniidae Press-and collaborated with Robinson on numerous publications as his representative on the West Coast. Highlights include Cheloniidae’s first book, Poe’s The Raven, 1980, a publisher’s proof copy for the artist with deluxe binding and featuring seven original pencil drawings, 12 titled and signed proofs, an artist’s proof and a signed prospectus (Estimate: $2,500-3,500), as well as the artist proof copy of a special deluxe edition of Robinson’s Cheloniidae: Sea Turtles, 1987, which includes one of only four bronze cover sculptures, signed and inscribed by Callaway ($3,000-5,000).

Grabhorn Press’s 1930 edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass comes to auction from the collection of bibliophile Irving Robbins, Jr. The work features 37 woodcuts by Valenti Angelo and is specially signed by the artist, as well as Edwin and Robert Grabhorn ($2,500-3,500). From Leonard Baskin’s Gehenna Press comes a sumptuous and rich double-suite set of Diptera: A Book of Flies & Other Insects, 1983, number eight of 15 dedicated and inscribed by Baskin and Gray Parrot to Eliot Stanley of the Baxter Society ($6,000-9,000). 

A robust selection of livres d’artiste features publications from German Expressionists as well as an assortment of Modern artists. Wassily Kandinsky’s Klänge, 1913, is a masterly array of his modernist woodcuts alongside poetry and music. This copy, numbered 216 of 300, is presented in original bindings, and carries an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. An unusually bright limited first edition of Umbra Vitae, 1924, by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a masterpiece of expressionist book design, is available at $6,000 to $9,000. Georges Rouault makes a splash in the sale with Cirque de l’?toile Filante, 1938, with 17 color aquatints and 82 engravings, the book is expected to bring $30,000 to $40,000; and the artist’s last work, Passion, 1939, estimated at $15,000 to $25,000. A first edition of Joan Miró’s first illustrated book, Il était une petite pie, 1928, rounds out the selection ($2,000-3,000).

Collaborations between George Barbier and François-Louis Schmied stand out in a run of Art Deco masterworks. One of the best examples of Barbier’s early work, Les Chansons de Bilities, 1922, is available signed by the artist, at $5,000 to $7,500. Vies Imaginaries, 1929, with 60 Barbier illustrations, and designed by Schmied, is a collection of 22 semi-biographical short stories created specially for members of the French bibliophile group Le Livre Contemporain, expected to bring $10,000-15,000. Solo works by Schmied include Le Cantique des Cantiques, 1925, considered the artist’s most elaborate book, featuring 80 pages of lavish wood-engraved illustrations ($10,000-15,000). Sonia Delaunay’s 1925 tour de force of Simultaneous Contrast design theory, Ses Peintures, Ses Objets…, is estimated at $6,000 to $9,000.

Other rarities include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wasmuth Portfolio, 1910, the deluxe edition offered in its original leather-bound portfolio, of which fewer than 10 copies are thought to have survived ($8,000-12,000); one of only 40 sets of the desirable suite of signed etchings by Richard Diebenkorn for Arion Press’s Poems of W.B. Yeats, 1990, ($12,000-18,000); and Eugène Grasset’s La Plante et ses applications Ornementales, 1895, with 72 richly colored and intricately designed Art Nouveau plates ($6,000-9,000). 

Exhibition opening in New York City January 25. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at  

Additional highlights can be found here.

Image: Lot 20: Leonard Baskin, Diptera: A Book of Flies & Other Insects, with 66 etchings, Gehenna Press, 1983. Estimate $6,000 to $9,000.