The Year in Review at National Book Auctions

ITHACA, NY—National Book Auctions, located in Ithaca, NY, is pleased to report upon another successful year with many notable sales of singular and uncommon books, art, posters, and ephemera of all kinds. All prices reported include buyer's premium.

An original oil stick drawing in Jean Michel Basquiat's characteristic graffiti style and bearing his name was sold in July. This piece had not been on the market since it was purchased at a Belgian gallery in 1990 and it brought $38,130. Another unique item went on the block in November: a Victorian autograph album filled with the signatures of scores of exceptional people, including U.S. Grant, W.T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum, H.R.H. Prince Arthur, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and many others. This remarkable book received a high bid of $7,073.

Important works of literature and history continued to attract strong attention. A first American edition of Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" sold for $1,107 while a first U.S. edition of the ground-breaking novel, "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus," written by her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, sold for $4,613. A first edition of "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway reached a hammer price of $1,292, a landmark first edition of "A Historical Discourse/A History of the Town of Concord" by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Lemuel Shattuck brought $1,784, and an 18th century medical textbook, "Museum Anatomicum Academiae Lugduno-Bavatae" fetched $1,538. 

A wide-ranging variety of material is a hallmark of the gallery's offerings and this theme continued in 2013. For example, a book autographed by Amelia Earhart with a personal letter from the enigmatic aviator tucked into its pages, sold for $4,920 and the first issue of "Playboy" magazine, with the notorious erotic photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the cover, brought $1,538. An antique Coptic Christian holy book, a hand-made illustrated manuscript from Ethiopia, fetched a hammer price of $1,230 while a collection of original posters from World War I earned over $3,700.  Additional desirable items that passed over the auctioneer's block included a first edition of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," by Ken Kesey, a complete 42-volume set of the debates and proceedings of the U.S. Congress from 1834 to 1856, a collection of sheet music from the Confederate side of the Civil War, and a 16th century Latin Bible, illustrated with many wood engravings.

Owner and founder of National Book Auctions, David Hall, observed several trends in the book market in 2013, including the ongoing volatility resulting from the wide-spread digitization of reference materials and fiction. Although the value of collectible books continues to appreciate steadily and in some cases, swiftly, functional books have largely lost their former strong foothold on the reselling side of the book world. Additionally, efficiency remains on the distant horizon for collectible books selling below $1,000. The sheer quantity of books that have been produced by modern man has created an enormous supply of collectible books in this price range, relative to demand and consequently, hammer prices on these books are still highly volatile.  Hall also remarked that the firm was particularly honored this past year when it was selected to handle the estate of well-known antiquarian book dealer, Norman Kane. Mr. Kane had been a long-time buyer and seller with National Book Auctions and with his passing, the collectible book world has lost a tremendous amount of knowledge as well as a fine colleague.

National Book Auctions is a public auction service specializing in books, ephemera, and art. National Book Auctions is a targeted service offering experience and expertise unique to marketing antique and modern books and ephemera for consignors and collectors alike. The upcoming 2014 auctions will feature a wide assortment of collectible, signed, and first edition books. For more information, please contact the gallery at 607-269-0101 or email

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