Published: August 9, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy of Heritage Auctions
DALLAS – On July 27 and 28, Heritage Auctions conducted its Rare Books Signature® Auction, presenting a fantastic selection of first editions, folios and assorted ephemera. The lots ranged from some of the earliest printed pages to contemporary classics of the late Twentieth Century. With 529 lots sold, the auction achieved $1,602,013.
The showstopper of the sale was also its top lot, The Aboriginal Port Folio by James Otto Lewis (American, 1799-1858). Printed in Philadelphia, the folio also has the subtitle, Or a collection of portraits of the most celebrated chiefs of the North American Indians. As extensive as its title, this first edition was complete with ten parts containing all 80 hand-colored plates. One of six known “complete” copies, the rest held in institutions, this example is one of only three of these to retain its title page. The first nine parts of the folio were compiled and published quickly between May 1835 and January 1836 in order to compete with Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America, published in 1836. The tenth part’s publication in 1838 reflected this urgency, as Lewis’s subscriber numbers were reduced significantly during the two-year gap. The rarity and near fine condition of this folio boosted its bidding to $100,000.
Second in the top lots but first on the printed page was a single leaf from the Gutenberg Bible. The excerpt was part of the Bible’s first volume, written in Latin, containing I Kings and featured the death of Saul, after which David became king of Israel and Judah (I Samuel 29:6-31:12). From an imperfect copy purchased at auction in 1920, the page was sold as an individually-bound leaf book along with an essay by A. Edward Newton (American, 1864-1940) in 1921. Norton inscribed the page to Mrs Lucy Doheny (American, 1893-1993) of the wealthy petroleum family in 1931. This association added value to an already rare and important piece of history, which sold for $90,625.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien was third in the sale, consisting of first editions published in London by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., from 1954 to 1955. Each of the books were in near fine condition with full original illustrations. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers both had first state dust jackets while The Return of the King had a second state dust jacket. This was not an issue, and it sold to an ultimate fan for $57,500. Tolkien’s work appeared in another top lot, a 1956 letter explaining the history and pronunciation of his name and his inspiration for The Lord of the Rings, that sold for $30,000.
Another adventure crossed the block to glory in the sale, the complete Cook’s Voyages by John Hawkesworth and James King, printed in London between 1773 and 1784. Recounting the explorations of Captain James Cook (English, 1728-1779), the set is a landmark title in the history of maritime voyages. Cook’s contribution to western civilization’s knowledge of the Pacific Ocean and Australia cannot be overstated, however he has recently come under scrutiny in post-colonial studies. The nonetheless beautifully bound and significant set continued its voyage for $56,250.
Another example from the early days of printed books was offered, the Liber Chronicarum by Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) which sold for $37,500. Like an early atlas, the Chronicarum is a universal history of the Christian world, from the Book of Genesis to Schedel’s native Nuremburg. It introduced many to the wider world through its extensive illustrations, including historical and cultural events, technological developments and famous international cities. There are likely fewer than 100 copies of this Latin edition extant worldwide, and many are institutionally owned.
Jumping forward in time, two other notable lots were first editions of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Wells not only signed the 1897 copy but also drew a sketch of the titular character for fellow novelist Ralph Straus, boosting the sale to $32,500. Rand’s 1957 novel was also signed and inscribed, selling for $27,500.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Heritage Auction’s next Manuscripts sale is October 19. For information, 214-528-3500 or www.ha.org.
September 28, 2022
September 28, 2022
September 27, 2022
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