Published: February 21, 2023
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy of Sarasota Estate Auction
SARASOTA, FLA. – The latest chapter in Sarasota Estate Auction’s catalog of sales opened and closed with its Important Fine Book & Manuscript Spectacular on February 12. The sale totaled more than $250,000, with less than 10 of 144 lots going unsold. The majority of these sold online, with many bidders participating over the phone.
The highest price achieved was a first edition, later printing of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s (1807-1882) “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” a narrative poem dramatizing the early settlement of Plymouth, Mass., and the love triangle between colonists Miles Standish, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Signed and inscribed to Longfellow’s cousin, Anne Stephenson, the lot included letters from the Doves Bindery (London, 1893-1908) which most likely rebound the 1858 collection of eight volumes in one presentation copy. This gilt-decorated cover is protected by a custom slip cover, and the book is excellently preserved. Estimated at only $400/800, the “Courtship” resulted in $32,760 from a German collector.
Next was a second edition of A Discourse And Discovery of New-found-land by Sir Richard Whitbourne (1561-1635), printed by Felix Kingston, London, around 1662. Whitbourne was the captain of a merchant vessel who first visited Newfoundland in 1579 on a whaling and trading venture with the Beothuk, Newfoundland’s now possibly extinct Indigenous peoples. He settled there and in 1618 became governor of the Renewse colony. Expanding on the 1660 edition, this volume includes letters that give the only account of George Calvert, Lord Baltimore’s settlement on the Avalon Peninsula, after which he departed for Maryland. The book sold for $17,010 ($4/8,000) to a Canadian bidder.
The only document not written in English placed third in the sale, an 1803 letter written and signed by Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) to Louis-Andre Pichon, commissioner of maritime relations of the French Republic. Lafayette writes from La Grange, his French estate, hoping that he will be able to settle debts incurred during France’s recent revolution and political upheavals. Although heralded in both American and French revolutionary history, Lafayette’s later life was faced with uncertainties; this letter shows his humanity, buckling under financial pressures and civic responsibility, as well as his extended network of contacts in the new American government. The letter goes on for about two and a half pages, and achieved $15,120 ($8/14,000) from a phone bidder in California.
Another letter that did well in the auction was framed with a portrait of its author, Lord Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). Written in 1801 to Sir William Beechey, an English portrait artist, the letter commissions a portrait of Sir William Hamilton who was the husband of Lady Emma Hamilton. The three were complicit in a polyamorous relationship that scandalized English society. Nelson included an engraving after his portrait by J. Hoppner, R.A., writing with his left hand in these examples, having lost his right arm in battle. The framed pair bid to $13,230 ($3/6,000) from a Massachusetts bidder via Invaluable.
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.sarasotaestateauction.com or 941-359-8700.
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