Auctions | October 20, 2020

Hindman’s Fine Books & Manuscripts Auction Reached $1.2 Million

Courtesy of Hindman Auctions

The Kelmscott Chaucer in a fine twentieth-century vellum binding by Peter Franck realized $75,000.

Chicago – Hindman's auction of The Library of Gerald and Barbara Weiner realized more than $1.2M, achieving a strong sell-through rate of 87%. Following the success of a record-setting 2019 for the Books and Manuscripts department, this auction once again exceeded expectations.

“We are proud to have had the opportunity to handle this fine collection.  A diverse group of books and manuscripts found very strong results in last week’s sale, a sign of the strength of the auction market in the category” said Gretchen Hause, Hindman’s Director and Senior Specialist in Fine Books and Manuscripts.

The auction was led by a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (lot 40), which sold for $112,500 against a presale estimate of $60,000-80,000.  The copy contained an autographed note, signed by Darwin in the third person to an unnamed recipient. Hindman has continued to see enormous success for Darwin’s works after setting the world auction record for the very fine Mellon-Garden copy of the Origin, sold in 2019.

Highlights include a copy of William Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio and a copy of the Kelmscott Press’s Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. The Fourth Folio (lot 209), printed in 1685, was the last edition of Shakespeare’s plays published in the 17th century. Estimated at $60,000-80,000 the work sold for $81,250. The Kelmscott Chaucer (lot 69), the supreme achievement of the Kelmscott Press, in a fine 20th-century vellum binding by Peter Franck, commissioned by Philip Duschnes, realized $75,000 against a presale estimate of $60,000-80,000.

Another highlight was an autographed letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to George Sayer regarding the manuscript and publication of The Lord of the Rings (lot 222). Tolkien requests that Sayer return his copy of the manuscript and describes George Allen & Unwin’s desire to publish the work after it had been rejected by nearly every major British publisher, including Tolkien’s own publisher, Collins. The letter reads in part, “Can you still put me up?...I could come any time after the 18th that is suitable to you and your wife. The earlier the better for me since G. A. & U. are now clamouring to reconsider the Lord of the Rings, so that the sooner you have finished it – I could not leave you in the middle of the third book for all the publishers in the world, and anyway I greatly desire to hear your opinions at the end – the better for me in that regard.”  The extraordinary letter realized more than seven times its presale estimate, ultimately selling for $35,840 against an estimate of $4,000-6,000.

African Americana, offered in a separate session, performed exceptionally well as demand has continued to rise in this category. A copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (lot 266) sold for $8,125 against a presale estimate of $3,000-5,000. This first edition presentation copy was inscribed by King on the front free endpaper. Also highlighted in this session was a typed letter signed from Malcom X to author Alex Haley from 1964 (lot 267), one of a series of responses to the editorial, "The Lesson of Malcolm X" published by the Saturday Evening Post on September 12, 1964.

The Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana auction was held at Hindman’s Chicago saleroom on October 8, 2020 with bidders participating by absentee, telephone and four online bidding platforms. The department will hold their final sale of 2020 in two sessions, on November 12-13, at Hindman’s Chicago saleroom.  The first session of the auction features fine selections of incunabula, Renaissance printing, literature, and printed and manuscript Americana including American prints. The second session, to be held Friday November 13th, includes a fine selection of livres d’artiste, and features the fine Edward Gorey collection of Thomas J. Barrett.

Hindman is now welcoming consignments for the department’s spring auctions. For more details and to see full results for the auction, please visit