Bid to $460,000 (£357,420), a copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species… was the high spot in a sale of books from the library of a Midwestern collector held in Chicago on November 5.
Previously noted in News, ATG No 2417, this copy sold by Hindman (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) broke a record of $400,000 set at Bonhams New York this summer for what was one of those special copies that Darwin had his publishers send out, with his compliments, to friends and fellow zoologists and scientists.
The copy in the Chicago sale did not have that cachet, and there were a few shortcomings – but it was generally a fine and bright copy and one that certainly had a distinguished provenance.
At one time in the library of the American philanthropist Paul Mellon, it was last seen at auction in 1989 and made just $22,000 when sold by Sotheby’s New York as part of Haven O’More’s exceptional ‘Garden’ library.
‘Greatest scientific work’
Sold at $170,000 (£132,090) by Hindman was a 1687 first in period vellum of Newton’s …Principia Mathematica. A work famously edited by Edmund Halley and published at his own expense for the benefit of the Royal Society, this is the book defined in Printing and the Mind of Man as “the greatest work in the history of science”.
A 1704, first issue copy in rebacked period calf of Newton’s Opticks…, a book that has been described as “every bit as revolutionary and challenging, and every bit as controversial as the Principia”, sold at a mid-estimate $36,000 (£27,970).
Only days after a copy made $80,000 in a Christie’s New York sale (see ATG No 2420), another 1776 first of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, the two volumes in restored and rebacked contemporary calf, made $90,000 (£69,930).
A copy of Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, again in a rebacked period binding, reached $38,000 (£29,525) in the Chicago sale. This early work, published in 1759, secured for Smith a respected place among Scottish moral philosophers and he personally ranked it above his Wealth of Nations…
Only one copy has made more at auction: the ex-Browning/Robert Macnamara copy sold for $45,000 by Freeman’s of Philadelphia last March.
Literary highlights at Hindman included one of 100 signed copies on Dutch hand-made paper of the Shakespeare & Co of Paris, 1922 first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Uncut in the famous blue-green paper wrappers, it sold at $110,000 (£85,470).
First edition copies of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone keep on finding their way to auction, and here yet another was sold by Hindman for $120,000 (£93,240).
Boasting first-impression text and in a first-state binding, it had been signed and dated by the author just three months after publication.
On the previous day Hindman had mounted a far larger, mixed-owner sale of some 480 lots – two of which, important 18th century maps of New York, were featured and illustrated on the book pages in ATG No 2419.
Just a few more lots are noted here.
Sold at $44,000 (£34,190) was one of just eight vellum copies of Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century, a slim work containing 35 reproductions of early cuts that was printed at William Morris’ Kelmscott Press in 1897, though not issued until the following year.
In what may have been a one-off binding of limp dark green vellum with yapp edges and tan silk ties, this was a copy owned and signed by Sidney Cockerell. At the time he was private secretary to Morris and spent several years cataloguing his medieval manuscripts and miniatures. A sample of Morris’ signature is pasted inside the lower cover.
This copy was last seen at auction in New York in 1934, at an Anderson Galleries sale of the library of the American socialite Edith Rockefeller McCormick.
Bid to $16,000 (£12,430) was one of 15 vellum copies of the 1928, Golden Cockerel edition of Keats’ Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St Agnes and Other Poems, in the original black sharkskin gilt binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.
An 1865 album of four mounted photographs by Alexander Gardner of the hanging of four of those convicted as co-conspirators of John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was also sold at $16,000.
Among earlier works in the single-owner collection was a 1482, Venetian first of Erhard Ratdolt’s famous Elementa… that made $65,000 (£50,505), but illustrated instead above is a page from Oliver Byrne’s remarkable 1847 edition of that work offered in the larger general sale.
As the extended title explains, this version, printed by Charles Whittingham at the Chiswick Press, is one in which “…coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater use of learners”.
It was an old school prize copy in a later half morocco binding and had a number of faults, but as a remarkable exercise in four-colour printing and Euclidean geometry, did manage $3200 (£2485).
Other copies have sold for as much as $12,000 – over £9000 at today’s exchange rates.