On October 29th, 2015, PBA Galleries in San Francisco will hold the first of three auctions of Rare Cartography, Exploration and Voyages: The Warren Heckrotte Collection, followed by sales on December 3, 2015, and March 10th, 2016. Built over a span of more than fifty years, the superb collection features rare and important landmarks in the exploration of the Americas, particularly the Pacific slope and the northwest coast. On offer will be items rarely or never seen at auction, tracing the expansion of cartographic and geographic knowledge from the 16th through 20th centuries, including maps, atlases, books, even rare geographic jigsaw puzzles and games.
Warren Heckrotte began collecting rare books and maps in the early 1960’s, when called to Geneva, Switzerland, to add scientific expertise, as a nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, to the ongoing nuclear test ban treaty talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. In his off hours he would rummage through the book stores and stalls of the city, fascinated by the history to be discovered, and purchasing rarities for what would be considered a pittance today. He spent much of the next decade and a half traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Switzerland, and even spent some time in the Soviet Union, stopping at the London booksellers and auction houses on the way, with Maggs, Quaritch, Sotheby’s and Christie’s all providing additions to his growing collection. Back in the San Francisco Bay Area he was a favored customer at John Howell Books, Alta California Books, Argonaut and others. Not content just to acquire material, Mr. Heckrotte studied it in scholarly fashion, and drew his own conclusions. He contributed articles to such publications as Terra Cognita (newsletter of the Society for the History of Discoveries), The Map Collector, Mercator’s World, and the newsletter of the California Map Society. He edited, and largely wrote, California 49: Forty-nine Maps of California from the 16th Century to the Present, published in San Francisco in 1999. Mr. Heckrotte also curated a number of exhibits of his material at the Book Club of California. PBA Galleries is pleased to make use of Mr. Heckrotte’s scholarly descriptions of his collection in the preparation of the catalogues.