Auctions | November 4, 2022

First Editions of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall and Conan Doyle to Auction

PBA Galleries

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. Six volumes, all first editions, bound in period full mottled calf with spines ornately tooled in gilt ($30,000-50,000).

On November 17, 2022 PBA Galleries will host a Rare Books & Manuscripts sale with over 250 lots of valuable and interesting books in all fields, with select manuscript material and other rarities. Dating from the 14th to the 21st centuries, the items range from early editions of Don Quixote to imaginative artists’ books from the past decade, with striking color plate books from the 19th century, shelves of finely bound literary sets, fine printing from the Arion Press and others, science and medical works spanning over 400 years, illustrated books, natural history, astronomy, photography, and much more.

One highlight from the sale is an exceptional set of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a twenty-year endeavor worked on from 1776 and completed in 1788.The six volumes, all first editions, are beautifully bound in period full mottled calf with spines ornately tooled in gilt ($30,000-50,000).

Other rare highlights include North American Herpetology by John Edwards Holbrook, the first comprehensive illustrated account of the reptile class in American zoology. 5 volumes with 147 hand-colored lithographed plates, the revised and expanded edition. The author may have burned copies of the 3 volume first edition from dissatisfaction with the color plates ($10,000-15,000). Also from the natural history offerings is Illustrations of the Birds of California, Texas, Oregon, British and Russian America, by John Cassin. The second edition from 1862 it is finely bound in later full morocco and contains 50 color lithographs ($3,000-5,000).
The Author’s Edition of The Works of Arthur Conan Doyle also graces the auction. 12 volumes, from 1903, they are 1 of 1000 copies signed by Doyle and finely bound in full levant morocco. Beautiful plates illustrate the familiar characters and plots of Doyle’s work ($8,000-12,000). Cervantes’ Don Quixote in the second edition in English, is considered the best of the early English language versions. From 1652, it is the Thomas Shelton translation and is the first one-volume edition of both parts ($6,000-9,000).

Intimacy: Drawing with Light, Drawn from Stone, a marvelous artist’s book created by Mary Heebner, is 1 of 20 copies and is being offered at auction or online for the first time. The graphic elements are printed in letterpress and embellished with graphite or watercolor and a plexiglass viewing easel is included. The two books are set within an anodized aluminum box with carved marble sculpture ($6,000-9,000).

Also featured is a truly unique lot is Albert Einstein’s Meaning of Relativity, signed and inscribed by the great physicist to Yandall Woodfin in 1953, when the future Baptist minister and educator was studying theology at Princeton ($4,000-6,000); the rarely sold as a complete set is The World in Miniature, 43 volumes with some 650 hand-colored engraved plates ($10,000-15,000); and a marvelous and massive edition of James Cook’s famed and rare Beautiful Seaweeds Illustrated by Natural Specimens containing 42 leaves of mounted and pressed specimens of seaweed ($2,000-3,000).

PBA is open by appointment only. Live auction participation for this is available as well as online or phone bidding. For more information about upcoming sales, to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415.989.2665 or