Books & Periodicals

Material in this specialist market ranges from the early printed works of the Gutenberg Press and William Caxton right through to Modern First Editions and now up to signed copies of Harry Potter. Condition and rarity are the keys to this sector.


King James Bible in a restoration binding sells for $380,000 in the ‘Perryville’ Doheny auction

16 January 2002

In October 1987, Christie’s embarked on a series of six sales to dispose of the Doheny library, a spectacular series of auctions that ended in May 1989 and raised a grand total of $38m – a sum that remains to this day a record for any library sold at auction.

Court martial that led on to treason

16 January 2002

ONE of only 50 copies of Proceedings of a General Court Martial.... for the Trial of Major General Arnold that came up for sale in a Swanns Americana sale of November 29 was ex-library, bound in later half morocco with assorted stamps and various defects, but this Philadelphia imprint of 1780 is an extremely rare and historically significant item and attracted a lot of interest.

Tarzan’s outhouse and Synthetic Men from Mars – an ERB special

16 January 2002

ED GILBERT, a Californian book dealer, became a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs when he read The Gods of Mars in 1925, aged just 12 years. Shortly thereafter he was introduced to ERB by his elder sister, Florence, who in 1935 became the writer’s wife.

Half of the earliest English nursery rhyme book rates £40,000 in Knightsbridge

14 January 2002

Blackamoor, Taunymoor, Suck a Bubby; Your Father’s a Cuckold, Your Mother told me ....not the most familiar of nursery rhymes, nor indeed one likely to find much favour in the present century, but that rhyme, illustrated right, is only one of 37 found in the second volume of Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, many of which are much more familiar, if not always in quite the same form as we know them now.

The People’s Commissariat and the Imperial family jewels

14 January 2002

A jewellery sale held by Sotheby’s on November 27 included a few exhibition and sale catalogues, plus a very rare and important work published in Moscow in 1925 by the People’s Commissariat of Finances.

Were these bird books special copies given to Coenraad Temminck?

14 January 2002

The bird with the splendid hairdo pictured right is one of five original watercolours, possibly by Madam Knip herself, found in a special copy of Temminck & Knip’s Histoire naturelle des Pigeons of 1801-11 that sold for £30,000 to a private buyer at Christie’s November 28 sale.

The Lady of the Seashells?

19 December 2001

Sold for £90,000 as part of the November 15 Natural History & Travel sale at Sotheby’s was an album of 162 conchological watercolours put together c.1764-82 by Mlle. J.C. Xavery, a miniaturist of Dutch descent and probably the sister of the flower and landscape painter Jacob Xavery, who was working in Paris around the same time.

Parker & Stalker’s very rare Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing

13 December 2001

The earliest book in English on the subject, and described by H.D. Molesworth in his introduction to a 1960 reprint as “a work of art in its own right... as readily accepted for its literary content as for its technical information”, George Parker and John Stalker’s Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing... was the book that effectively introduced the process to Western craftsmen and one that had, as a consequence, a dramatic effect on decorative styles and fashions.

Mystic Meg of the Middle Ages…

03 December 2001

This codified sequence of columns, dots and captions is what the superstitious folk of 16th century Italy consulted with more zealotry than a tabloid-reading lottery pundit in search of Mystic Meg.

For abusing the sergeant – 200 lashes

30 November 2001

BIDDING was rather more subdued than usual at this recent Sussex sale at Strides on 6 November, but as ever, the manuscript section contained much that was of interest and, at a comfortable, safe distance, even rather amusing.

£80,000 double for T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf in the Frederick B. Adams sale

22 November 2001

The Frederick B. Adams Jnr. library of English & American Literature was sold by Sotheby’s on November 6 and 7. The second day was devoted entirely to Adams’ magnificent Thomas Hardy collection, but among the highlights of the general sale was an inscribed presentation copy of the 1923, first English edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, illustrated right, that sold at a higher than expected £80,000 to Peter Harrington.

Where to go in London – in 1876

09 November 2001

A 1926 first, limited edition copy of Winnie the Pooh, signed by both Milne and Shepard, that came for sale in these Rendells Devon auction rooms on 12 October was in the original binding but dampstained to the front board, causing some loss of the paper. It sold at £950.

Ashendene Dante and More

01 November 2001

The Ashendene Dantes that sold for £7000 as part of the book section of this general antiques sale at Dreweatt Neate on 10 October were formerly in the library of Sir Frederick Handley Page, founder of the aeronautical firm, and sold at £3500 was his copy of the 1906 Ashendene edition of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia.

Christie’s New York sell the library of Abel E. Berland

15 October 2001

Several auction records were broken when Christie’s New York sold the library of Abel E. Berland in an October 8-9 sale that saw 90 per cent of lots sold for a premium-inclusive total of $14.4m (£9.8m).

Eden in full colour...

12 October 2001

There were few plate books in this year’s Arts of India sale at Christie’s, held on September 27, but one notable result was provided by Emily Eden’s Portraits of the Princes & Peoples of India, published by J. Dickinson in 1844.

Uncle Fred, Scoop and Pooh do well in Oxford

26 September 2001

Pictured are two modern firsts, both in rather chipped jackets, from the book section of a September 7 sale held by Mallams of Oxford. P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred in Springtime of 1939 was sold for £100, while Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop of the previous year reached £210.

Architectural Adornment

26 September 2001

ISAAC WARE’S Complete Body of Architecture, a calf bound 1768 edition illustrated, or rather “adorned” with engraved plates of “...plans and elevations from original designs... in which are interspersed some designs of Inigo Jones”, was one of a small group of architectural books that brought most of the higher bids in this Bearne's sale on 21 August.

Aeronautica, or Voyages in the Air

31 August 2001

Depicting the balloons of the Montgolfier and Charles brothers, as well as Blanchard, Lunardi and Garnerin, this folding colour frontispiece plate comes from an anonymously published little volume entitled

Secondhand copy of first hand first

20 August 2001

AMONG the earlier travel books in the June 14 sale held by Pacific Book Auctions was a 1632 first edition of Bernal Diaz del Castillo’s famous first-hand account of the conquest of Mexico, Historia Verdadera de la Conquesta de la Nueva-España. An ex-Nottingham Free Library copy in a 20th century quarter morocco binding, it had stamps to the title and other pages and a few other shortcomings of condition, but it is an important work and sold at $5000 (£3625).

Rashi’s commentaries – the pristine version?

14 August 2001

Written in northern France around 1200, apparently by a scribe called Jacob, this vellum manuscript of Solomon ben Isaac Rashi’s Commentary on the Prophets (II Samuel 22:1 to Zechariah 6:13) is incomplete, but Rashi (1040-1105) was responsible for the most important and influential Hebrew biblical commentary of the Middle Ages and this is one of the two or three oldest extant manuscripts of Rashi’s commentaries on the Prophets.

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