$112k Family Archive Tops Swann's Americana Sale

166-Ponds.jpgNew York—Hoards of history-lovers came out to attend the preview for Swann Auction Galleries’ auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana on Thursday, September 28. The sale featured a trove of unique material, much of which had never previously been seen on the market. Department Director Rick Stattler said,  "This sale emphasized quality over quantity.  At 325 lots, it was one of the smallest Americana sales we've ever done, but the total hammer was the best of our past four Americana sales, and it finished above the top of its estimate range.”

            The top lot in the sale was an archive of 245 letters that spanned nearly a century by early frontier missionaries in Minnesota, which was sold to a private collector for $112,500—triple the pre-sale estimate, and the highest price ever realized for an archive at Swann. Collectors also won a first-edition Book of Mormon for $37,500, and a New Hampshire broadside proclaiming the end of the Revolution for $22,500.

            A burgeoning section of photographic works performed exceptionally well, with a set of cyanotype albums compiled by E. Radford Bascome, chronicling the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, 1897-1903, reaching $30,000, above a high estimate of $6,000. McClees’ Gallery of Photographic Portraits… of the Thirty-Fifth Congress, 1859, was one of the first photographically illustrated books published in the United States; it was purchased for $11,250.

            Latin Americana successful in this sale, led by a pair of early manuscripts by Baja California missionaries that brought $27,500 and $11,250, respectively, and Fernando de Cepeda's rare 1637 book on Mexican engineering, which brought $12,500. Among the earliest examples of printing in the Americas are legal power-of-attorney forms printed in sixteenth-century Mexico. A previously unknown example, printed circa 1572, brought a record $2,000.All but one of the lots in this section found buyers, earning $115,272 and exceeding the high estimate for the run.

            Institutions bid actively throughout the auction.  The biggest prize was a medical journal kept aboard the frigate Deane during the American Revolution, which went to the Society of the Cincinnati. Other institutions purchased the papers of naval surgeon Pierre St. Medard, an early manuscript cookbook from Mexico and a logbook of an 1804-16 seal-hunting expedition off the coast of Antarctica.

            Mr. Stattler added, “Buyers seemed confident and we even noted a few impulse purchases by disciplined collectors on the sale floor. The market remains strong for unique and interesting material."

            The next auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Galleries will be held in Spring 2018.

Image: Lot 166: Missionary archive of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, Minnesota, 1833-93. Sold September 28, 2017 for $112,500. (Pre-sale estimate: $30,000 to $40,000).

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