Published: March 20, 2001
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Pacific Book Auction Galleries (PBA) recently conducted two sales on the Thursday before the San Francisco International Rare Book Fair. Many dealers and collectors from around the world attended the auctions, and there was spirited bidding in both the morning and afternoon events.
It was standing room only when the morning offering of The Library of Robert Schoenlank commenced. Schoenlank collected the books for more than 20 years and his collection spanned from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth centuries. Schoenlank’s collection was especially rich in titles from the exhibition catalogue English Poetry, compiled in 1947 by noted English scholar John Hayward. Bidders at the auction realized that the auction of Schoenlank’s books was a special event and bid accordingly.
Two of the great highlights of the sale were the bidding wars on rare editions of T. S. Eliot’s poetry. Prufrock and Other Observations, one of 500 copies, was bid over its high estimate to $9,775. This was a record price achieved for a first edition of Eliot’s most celebrated poem, The Waste Land. An exceptionally fine copy in jacket, the book was estimated at $6/9,000. Two telephone bidders vied for the title, and the book finally sold for $23,000.
Top among the most celebrated English authors was Andrew Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems, 1681, which sold solidly within its $10/15,000 estimate for $14,950, and the first edition of Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859, which sold for $18,400, more than doubling its $6,000 high estimate.
A sum of $1,725 realized for the folio edition of Robert Blair’s The Grave, London, 1808, with engravings by William Blake, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s An Essay on Mind, and Other Poems, London, 1826, in a full morocco binding sold for $1,495. Noted South Pole explorer Ernest Shackleton’s copy of Rupert Brooke’s 1914 and Other Poems went past its $4/600 estimate to fetch $2,587.50.
Early works also fared well. A presentation copy of the London 1624 edition of Edmund Bolton’s Nero Caesar… was bid above its $400/600 estimate when it sold for $1,495. Thomas Carew’s Poems, London, 1640, tipped over its $2000 high estimate and rought $2,587.50, while Poems, and Fancies… by the important Seventeenth Century female poet Margaret Cavendish met its high estimate with a final price of $9,200.
No Seventeenth Century book brought greater attention at the auction, though, than the first English translation of the Iliad, dated London, 1611. A beautiful copy in contemporary dark calf gilt and including the fine engraved title by William Hole, the lot was bid high above its $6/8000 estimate to $20,700.
The Schoenlank auction was the first PBA auction to include real-time Internet bidding, as administered by icollector.com. At the auction, Internet bidders were able to bid from anywhere in the world, directly into the auction house sales room, as the sale happened in real time.
The afternoon auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts was highlighted by the original watercolor by Elmer Stanley Hader used as the dust jacket art for the first edition of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The watercolor was painted in 1938-39 and has become the illustrated image for the novel. The watercolor sold for $63,250.
Other notable Steinbeck lots included a first issue in dust jacket of To A God Unkown, New York, 1933, which brought $4,887.50, and The Grapes of Wrath continued to show its strength in the auction market with a fine copy in jacket of the first edition fetching $5,462.50, topping its high estimate of $5,000.
A surprising $1,495 was achieved for a very good jacketed first edition, regular issue of In Dubious Battle, well over its $5/800 estimate, and an expected $2,587.50 was realized for the uncorrected tall proof copy of the Steinbeck classic, The Pearl.
All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
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