Auctions | May 28, 2015

Skinner Hosts Fine Books & Manuscripts Online Auction May 27-June 7

Boston, MA—May  2015—This spring’s Fine Books and Manuscripts auction at Skinner, Inc. will remain true to its title, featuring printed and handwritten material spanning six centuries and celebrating cultural, literary, and historical milestones. The online-only sale will begin on May 27th, 2015 at 12 P.M. ET and conclude on June 7th, 2015 at 4 P.M. ET. Live previews will be held at Skinner’s Boston Gallery on Wednesday, June 3rd, from 2 P.M. to 5 P.M.; Thursday, June 4th, from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; and Friday, June 5th, from 10 A.M. to 7 P.M.

Marc Chagall

Featured lots include an important archive of Marc Chagall letters and documents, along with signed photographs, and inscribed copies of Chagall publications. The keystone of these lots is a Large Archive of Letters, 1964-1971 (Lot 13, Estimate $80,000-$120,000) documenting Chagall’s work with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, including the sets and costumes he designed for the Magic Flute, and the two iconic murals that grace the lobby.

Rare Books

Incunabula are represented in two lots, including a favorite of all book lovers: the Nuremberg Chronicle (Lot 222, Estimate $25,000-$35,000). Published in 1493 in large folio format, this ambitious project is illustrated throughout with almost 2,000 woodcuts. Its goal was to chronicle the history of the world from Genesis right up to contemporary times. The resulting images feature Bible illustration, portraits of kings and queens of ancient times, and numerous city views. The 1494 Venice edition of Ovid’s De Arte Amandi will also be offered  (Lot 196, Estimate $2,000-$3,000 ), along with an important post-incunabula edition of Raimundus Sabundus’s Theologia Naturalis, printed in Nuremberg by Koberger in 1502, in contemporary boards (Lot 211, Estimate $2,000-$3,000 ).

Many lots of decorative bindings along with collectors’ copies of first editions by Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, and Elmore Leonard, and a charming Dutch and Latin prayer book, circa 1500 featuring  hand-colored woodcuts (Lot 147, Estimate $2,000-$2,500) round out the books section.

Early American Manuscripts & Books

Two lots of 18th century American manuscripts offer exciting research opportunities for those interested in the American Revolution and early international ship voyages and trade.

The account books of John Roberts III, a Pennsylvania Quaker executed for treason during the American Revolution (Lot 61, Estimate $6,000-$8,000), documenting goods and materials taken from him by the Continental Army during the conflict. The controversy surrounding his execution has persisted for centuries, with meager original documents available. This collection of unique source material has been unknown to scholars until now. 

The shipping account books of Captain William Trotter (Lot 237, Estimate $12,000-$15,000) have been studied, but have never been available for sale. Seven volumes of Trotter’s ship’s logs from the late 18th and early 19th century document his voyages and observations in South America, the Far East, the Pacific Islands, the Northwest coast of North America, and elsewhere.  Hundreds of handwritten pages include detailed business transactions and fascinating ethnographic observations.

Americana collectors will find many interesting lots throughout the sale, including Hodder’s Arithmetic, the first book on math published in North America (Lot 169, Estimate $6,000-$8,000), with provenance connecting this copy to Myles Standish’s great-granddaughters. A folio copy of McKenney and Hall’s North American Indian Tribes, including all of volume one and a portion of volume two will also be included in the sale, featuring seventy-one full-color portraits of Native American Indian leaders (Lot 189, Estimate $8,000-$12,000).

Letters, Documents & Maps

The sale contains a diverse array of interesting letters and signed documents by early American presidents, musicians, artists, and literary figures, including Theodore RooseveltThomas JeffersonWilliam FaulknerErnest HemingwayHerman MelvilleWinslow HomerThomas Eakins , Louisa May AlcottRalph Waldo EmersonRobert BrowningTruman CapoteAmelia EarhartOrville WrightAndrew JacksonNathaniel HawthorneF. Scott FitzgeraldE.E. CummingsGiacomo PucciniJohn and Charles Wesley, and others.

Natural history prints are represented with botanical illustrations and Audubon prints (Lots 245-247, estimates vary) as well.

The final section of the sale contains a nice selection of early maps, including nine lots of  New World maps from the 16th and 17th century, four early maps of the Far East (Lots 268269273 and 274), and a rare gold rush map  from 1850 (Lot 265, Estimate $800-$1,000). Two early 20th century maps in the sale are notable for their graphic style: MacDonald Gill’s Wonderground Map of London, 1914 (Lot 289, Estimate $800-$1,000); and Elizabeth Shurtleff and Helen F. McMillin’s Highways and Byways of Girl Scouting, 1927 (Lot 272, Estimate $300-$500).

Catalog and Bidding

Catalogs are available online, from the Subscriptions Department, at 508-970-3240, or from the Gallery. Prices realized will be available online, at, both during and after the sale. The Skinner website enables users to view every lot in the auctions, leave bids, order catalogs and bid live, in real-time, through SkinnerLive!

About Skinner

Skinner auctions draw international interest from buyers and consignors alike, with material regularly achieving record prices. The company’s auction and appraisal services focus on fine art, jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts from around the globe, as well as wine, fine musical instruments, rare books, Asian art, clocks, Judaica, and more. Monthly Skinner Discovery auctions feature a breadth of estate material. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted names in the business, Skinner appraisers have appeared on the PBS-TV series, Antiques Roadshow, since the show’s inception. Skinner has galleries in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, as well as in New York City and Coral Gables, Florida, with bidders participating in person, by phone, and online. Join auctions live with SkinnerLive! and Bidsquare. For more information and to read our blog, visit the website at, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.