Sale of the NYC Bar Association Rare Book Collection Tops $2.3 Million

On November 24, 2014, Doyle New York held a highly-successful sale of the New York City Bar Association Rare Book Collection. The sale comprised important material of national and regional interest relating to New York, Colonial America, the American Revolution, the federal government, territorial expansion, legal incunabula and English law.

With competitive bidding from buyers in the salesroom, on the telephones, and on the Internet, the auction totaled an exceptional $2,369,231, far surpassing its estimate of $665,780-1,010,420, with 100% of the 325 lots offered sold.

Highlighting the sale was a rare copy of the 1735 Charter of the City of New York, known as the "Montgomerie Charter," which achieved a stunning $233,000, far exceeding its estimate of $20,000-30,000. Printed by John Peter Zenger and named for New York Governor John Montgomerie, the “Montgomerie Charter” would stand through the Revolutionary Period and New York's Constitutions of 1777 and 1821.

Another exceptional price was achieved by The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusets Colony, printed in Cambridge in 1672 and formerly in the collection of noted author and lawyer Richard Henry Dana Jr. (1815-1882). Intense competition sent the lot soaring over its estimate of $5,000-7,000 to an astonishing $185,000.

A 1788 first edition of The Federalist: A Collection of Essays fetched a strong $149,000, doubling its estimate of $60,000-60,000. It was signed by Michael Hillegas (1729-1804), who had overseen the finances of the American Revolution and served as the first Treasurer of the United States in the period before the ratification of the Constitution and the appointment of Alexander Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury.

The 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, Ordinances passed at a General Convention of delegates and representatives, drafted by George Mason with assistance from James Madison, was tremendously influential in subsequent state and federal documents, including the United States Declaration of Independence. With no existing auction record for this work, competition was exceedingly strong, sending the work soaring over its $2,000-3,000 estimate to a staggering $137,000.

The New York City Bar Association is America’s oldest bar association, and its library is among the largest member-supported law libraries in the nation. This internationally respected research facility has among its primary source material statutes, case law and regulations from all federal and state jurisdictions. Over the years, the library has acquired an extensive collection of rare and historic law-related volumes.

“While we have treasured all of the one-of-a-kind books that have come to our library over the past century and a half, the City Bar’s focus is on serving the legal profession. Making the works available for auction will better lead to their preservation for future generations,” said Richard Tuske, Director, Library of the New York City Bar Association.

Future sales of property from the New York City Bar Association Rare Book Collection will take place in 2015.

All prices include the Buyer's Premium.

Auction Guide