Rare Antiquities Book Leads at Bonhams Books Sale in LA

Los Angeles—At the Bonhams auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts on February 10 in Los Angeles, an extremely rare and complete copy of William Hamilton and Pierre François Hugues d'Hancarville's Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities sold for $106,250, surpassing its $75,000-100,000 estimate.

The first edition copy contains lavishly-illustrated plates of Hamilton's collection of ancient vases, which he acquired and expanded after being introduced to the Porcinari family in Naples by art specialist and dealer Pierre François Hugues d'Hancarville. Hamilton then sold the collection to the British Museum in 1772, but before shipping the items to England, he decided to catalog and illustrate the collection. The purpose for this project was to document the historic development of ancient art and antiquity and give contemporary designers an accurate guide for reproducing ancient vases. Hamilton and Hugues's book is a leading influential work on neo-classical design and taste.

The sale was also marked by confident bidding for ornithological titles. The Lockwood edition of John James Audubon's The Birds of America (est. $15,000-20,000) sold for $21,250; John Gould's A Monograph of the Trigonidae (est. $16,000-18,000) sold for $21,250; and Lionel Walter Rothschild's The Avifauna of Laysan and the Neighbouring Islands (est. $15,000-25,000) fetched $18,750. 

A rare collection of images of early 20th century China taken by American photographer John Zumbrun followed, and sold for $82,162 after competitive bidding.The highlights from the collection included a silver print photograph panorama of Beijing which sold for $27,500 (est. $20,000-30,000). Zumbrun's photographs were largely unknown outside of Beijing, and a few lucky bidders snapped up these rare images of old China.

Following the photographs, another significant Asian work, Michael Joseph and Tsuguharu Foujita’s A Book of Cats, sold well bringing $77,500, beating a previous Bonhams auction record. The book features the prose poetry of Joseph as a complement to Foujita’s illustrations. This exceedingly rare edition of only 500 copies features the art of the most important and eccentric Japanese artist working in the West during the early 20th century.

Other high points of the sale include The Complete Set of Cook’s Voyages and the Zoology of Captain Beechey’s Voyage, which sold for $21,250 and $18,750 respectively. Charles Mackay’s Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions is an important early work of social psychology and fetched $11,250, nearly eight times its high estimate. Finally, a groundbreaking work in gay literature, Simeon Solomon’s A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep sold for $17,500, more than twice its high estimate of $7,000.

The Director of the Fine Books and Manuscripts Department in Los Angeles, Dr. Catherine Williamson said, "Our February sale proves the book market is healthy and thriving across all subjects from natural history and travel, to art, photography and Americana."

Further auction results may be found at www.bonhams.com/auctions/21612. The next Los Angeles auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts at Bonhams will take place in September.

Auction Guide