Harry Potter books continue to command high prices. The Bonhams New York (27.5/25/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) sale of June 17 was led at $110,000 (£79,135) by a copy of the very first of them, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone of 1997, that also had a special label bearing JK Rowling’s signature laid in.
With Hansons also making something of a speciality of HP sales in the UK, there has been no shortage of such material on offer this year.
For example, the July 28 sale held in the North Yorkshire saleroom of Tennants (20% buyer’s premium) a bid of £80,000 was needed to secure a particularly fine looking copy of that first issue – one originally acquired at a Nottingham branch of Dillons.
A very different highlight of the Bonhams New York sale was a rare, clandestinely published memorial addressed to King Phillip IV by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Bishop of Puebla, which in the 17th century was the largest diocese in New Spain.
Issued without a title-page, but perhaps printed in Madrid c.1650-51, Virtudes del Indio… is a defence of the Indians against unlawful cruelties, slanders and misrepresentations perpetrated against them by Spanish colonists.
An extraordinarily rare work, here preserved in an early 20th century red morocco gilt binding by Lortic, this copy was one that had made the most recent of its three previous auction appearances in France in the 1970s. This time out it realised $70,000 (£50,360).
Another of the more expensive entries was an 1878-83 first of Daniel Giraud Eliot’s Monograph of the Felidae, or Family of Cats. A complete set of the 42 hand-coloured litho broadsheet plates produced by Joseph Smith after the drawings of Joseph Wolf, it sold at $45,000 (£32,375).
Dr Seuss characters
One sale highlight was not a book at all, but a model of one of the many extraordinary characters dreamed up by Dr Seuss – or Theodore Geisel, to use his real name.
In the 1930s, in pursuit of what he called his ‘System of Unorthodox Taxidermy’, Geisel produced a series of animal sculptures that in 1937 were exhibited in New York to promote the book that really launched his hugely successful writing career: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street*.
There later followed an exhibition of ‘Rare and Amazing Trophies for the Walls of your Game-Room, Nursery or Bar!’, among them a Tufted Gustard, a Mulberry Street Unicorn and the two foot tall Blue-Green Abelard offered in Knightsbridge.
Originally priced at $15, the Blue- Green Abelard was much the most expensive of these commercially marketed creations and though the paintwork on this rare survivor was rubbed and damaged, and the horns had been re-attached with adhesive, it sold at $18,000 (£12,950).
Signed and inscribed “For the children of Battersea with Best Wishes… Dr Seuss”, a 1958, first UK edition of The Cat in the Hat made £850 in a July 15 sale held by Hansons (25% buyer’s premium) – a modest sum but an auction record by some distance for a British first.
* In March, according to a New York Times report, Dr Seuss Enterprises announced its intention to end the publication and licensing of six Dr Seuss books, including this one – on the grounds that they contained depictions of groups that were “hurtful and wrong”.