First Edition Isaac Newton Brings $87,000 at Swann Galleries
New York—Swann Auction Galleries held a successful sale of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books on Tuesday, October 18, with especial offerings of early scientific and mathematical material.
The top lot of the sale was a first edition, first issue of Sir Isaac Newton’s seminal Opticks, 1704, a treatise on light and color. This excellent copy of the groundbreaking work sold well above its estimate at $87,500. Another highlight of the sale was Euclid’s Elementa geometriae, 1482, the first major mathematical work to appear in print. The printing process used in the first edition, which includes extensive geometrical designs, influenced the design of subsequent editions and similar works into the sixteenth century; it sold for $62,500.
Each section of the sale performed well, especially the collection of mountaineering literature from the estate of Timothy Treacy, an adventurer from California. Works in the collection helped to stimulate interest in mountaineering, as well as later classics on the subject. Specialist Tobias Abeloff said, “It was an interesting collection to work on, with many uncommon items. 129 of the 131 Treacy lots sold, so the sell-through rate mirrored the sale as a whole at 98%. The top Treacy lot was Edmund Thomas Coleman’s Scenes from the Snow-Fields, 1859.” That work sold to a collector for $16,250. Other high sellers from the Treacy Collection included a first edition of Rambles and Scrambles: Across the Country from Thonon to Trent, 1865, by Douglas Freshfield ($12,350) and a series of published letters between William Windham and Pierre Martel titled An Account of the Glacieres or Ice Alps in Savoy, 1744 ($10,000).
William Shakespeare’s A Winters Tale, extracted from the First Folio, sold after steady bidding for $25,000, well above its high estimate. A fourteenth-century vellum manuscript Psalter from England, written in gothic hand and including contemporary calendars, litany and miscellaneous texts, sold to a lucky collector for $8,450. Early English bibles also garnered much attention: The Byble, 1551 ($15,600); The holie Bible, 1572 ($7,280); and The Holy Bible, 1617 ($13,000), all sold to collectors for more than twice their estimates.
Specialist Tobias Abeloff said, “Healthy phone and internet bidding sent prices for many items well beyond their estimates.” This was Swann Galleries’ top-earning dedicated Early Printed books sale since the house’s October 2012 offering of Aldine Imprints & Early Printed Books from the Library of Kenneth Rapoport, underscoring the continued strength of premium book collections at auction.