Published: September 14, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy PBA Galleries
BERKELEY, CALIF. – Seventy-one lots of rarities and high water marks in literature, science, natural history, printing, Americana, exploration, illustration, philosophy and more were offered by PBA Galleries on September 2. Titles and authors ranged from the I Ching to Bertrand Russell and William Shakespeare to John Steinbeck, the offering presenting landmarks from many cultures and all ages.
The top lot was a first edition of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, which sold for $20,400. The two volumes were presented in period quarter leather and boards, spine lettered and ruled in gilt. The rare first edition is considered the culminating masterpiece in the career of one of, if not the, greatest Russian novelists. In a multi-dimensional study of parricide, Dostoevsky portrays the disintegration of the Russian family and society in the 1870s, attacks socialism and atheism, satirizes political reforms of the period and deals with the problem of human guilt. “An exceptional copy in what is undoubtedly a Russian binding of the period,” said the auction house.
Said sale specialist Bruce MacMakin, “This was the fourth in our series of Platinum branded auctions, created to fill the demand for auctions devoted to higher-end material. A variety of special items in all fields, from science and medicine to modern literature, with travel narratives, Americana, livres d’artiste, landmarks of philosophy, natural history and much more were on offer. The results, with solid prices across the board, and an 80 percent sale rate, demonstrated emphatically the continued strength at the top of the antiquarian market.”
The first printing in the West of the I Ching translated into Latin was the very rare first printing in any language using moveable type. Published in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1834-39 and in a contemporary half leather binding, it sold for $16,800.
Also crossing the block was a presentation copy of Grapes of Wrath. The rare signed copy of John Steinbeck’s greatest novel was inscribed to John Sheehan, the sometime drinking buddy of Ernest Hemingway. The first printing in dust jacket went out at $12,000.
Fetching $18,000 was the first publication of the theory of evolution. On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties…, three papers by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, printed in the Linnean Society Journal in 1859, constituted the first publication of the groundbreaking theory of evolution and natural selection.
Noah Webster’s seminal An American Dictionary of the English Language, two volumes, 1828, represented the first edition of the most influential of American dictionaries, defining for all time the differences between the American version of the English language and that of the British. It brought $9,600.
A stunning three-volume livre d’artiste by Sandow Birk of Dante’s Divine Comedy, with more than 200 original lithographs, nearly half of them signed by Birk, limited to 100 copies from the Trillium Press, was bid to $6,000.
Capping the sale’s top lots was James Redpath’s Hand-Book to Kansas…, being a rare, early guide to the Pikes Peak Gold Region, 1859, with two significant maps. It left the gallery at $7,200.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.pbagalleries.com or 415-989-2665.
June 28, 2022
June 28, 2022
June 28, 2022
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