• Doyle, June 20: CLAUDE MCKA. Home to Harlem. New York: Harpers, 1928. First edition. $700 to $1,000.
    Doyle, June 20: Haydn's VI Original Canzonettas, signed by the composer. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Doyle, June 20: A rare EP sleeve inscribed by John Lennon. $800 to $1,200.
    Doyle, June 20: An extremely rare 1961 concert set list and autograph letter from The King. $7,000 to $10,000.
    Doyle, June 20: Bryan Batt's copy of the Mad Men Yearbook, 2008-2014. $600 to $800.
    Doyle, June 20: An original Al Hirschfeld depicting comedian Fred Allen. $1,000 to $1,500.
    Doyle, June 20: A signed note from George Gershwin with reference to Porgy and Bess. $1,000 to $1,500.
    Doyle, June 20: An original Harold Arlen manuscript musical quotation from "Over the Rainbow.” $1,000 to $1,500.
    Doyle, June 20: A fine original Edith Head sketch for Grace Kelly's wedding trousseau. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Doyle, June 20: The poster for New Faces with inscriptions and the signature of Eartha Kitt. $200 to $300.
    Doyle, June 20: The classic "Jazz" Bowl by Viktor Schreckengost for Cowan Pottery. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, June 20: Tony Award Medallion won for "Kismet." $3,000 to $5,000.
  • Heritage Auctions, June 27
    F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The Great Gatsby
    New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Mary Shelley
    Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus
    London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    J. R. R. Tolkien
    The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again
    London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1937
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Jane Austen
    Emma: A Novel. In Three Volumes. By the Author of "Pride and Prejudice," &c. &c.
    London: Printed for John Murray, 1816
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    An Inland Voyage
    London: C. Kegan Paul & Co., 1878
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Ernest Hemingway
    Three Stories & Ten Poems
    Paris: Contact Publishing Co., 1923
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
    History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark
    Philadelphia, 1814
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Emily Dickinson
    Autograph letter signed ("Emily and Vinnie"), to Mary Adelaide Hills
    Amherst, MA, Late April, 1880
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    John Keats
    Autograph letter signed ("John Keats"), to Mrs. Jeffrey
    Honiton 4 or 5 May 1818
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Samuel Johnson
    A Dictionary of the English Language: In which the Words are deduced from their Originals…
    London, 1765
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    H. P. Lovecraft
    Small archive of nine lengthy autograph letters signed variously over a period of six years to J. Vernon Shea.
    Various places, 1931-1937
    Heritage Auctions, June 27
    Izaak Walton
    The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative Man's Recreation…
    London: T. homas Maxey for Rich. ard Marriot, 1653
  • Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Keats, John] Spenser, Edmund: The Works of that Famous English Poet, Mr. Edmond Spenser. $50,000 - $80,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: (Walton, Izaak): The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative man's Recreation. Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing. $30,000 - $50,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: Thomas, Gabriel: An Historical and Geographical Account of the Province and Country of Pensilvania; and of West-New-Jersey in America. $25,000 - $35,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Carroll, Lewis]: The Game of Alice in Wonderland. $2,000 - $3,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: Athias, Joseph, et al.: Biblia Hebraica. $7,000 - $10,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Warhol, Andy, and Jens Quistgaard] Dansk Designs Salesman's Presentation Catalogue. $2,500 - $3,500.
  • Sotheby’s, June 26: Poe, Edgar Allan. Tamerlane — the most poignant rarity in American literature. 400,000 - 600,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: The Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." 2,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: William Blake. “Poems with very wild and interesting pictures” 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: Thomas Taylor [artist]. The original cover art for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 400,000 - 600,000 USD

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2017 Issue

The Annual Rare Book Hub Top 500 Prices Paid at Auction for Books and Works on Paper in 2016

One small step for Tintin. Tintin went to the moon in 1953, and so did Hergé's prices in 2016.

Now that the new year has arrived, it's time to look back at the old. Once again, we have tallied the Rare Book Hub Top 500 highest prices paid at auction in the books and paper field for the past year – 2016. Each individual item is something of a curiosity, but taken as whole, these lists can tell us something about the market. Perhaps we should specify about the top end of the market, because most collectors will never purchase anything in this range. With this kind of money, they will purchase something more practical, like a house.

 

Nothing reached the $9 million level this year, as did last year's Babylonian Talmud. The $5 million range was tops this year, the lowest high price in years. However, 13 items exceeded the $1 million mark, compared to 11 in 2015. The minimum price needed to qualify for the Top 500 was also down this year, $72,800 vs. $74,200 last year.

 

We again find some of the notable names in history, literature, and science making multiple appearances on the list. It's reassuring to see some of these great people are still appreciated after all these years. We find Shakespeare on here 6 times, Darwin 8, Newton 7. Washington, with 7, edges out Lincoln, with 5. Last year's leader, John James Audubon, made 16 appearances, four more than last year. One might describe his items as "leaves," as they are leaves from a book, but in reality these are plates, illustrations taken from his magnificent first edition of the Birds of America. However, 16 was not enough to be the leader in 2016. It wasn't even close. That leads us to a notable trend in collecting that has developed over the past decade. Some will find it disappointing, even disturbing, while others will leave it to the market to decide.

 

This year's Top 500 is flooded with items relating to comic books. A decade ago, including them on a list with books and works on paper was an afterthought, only a few such items at most ever appeared. With a generation that grew up on comics now making it to the age and income bracket that allows it to collect at the highest level, action superheroes and other less extreme characters fill the upper atmosphere of collecting. Everyone knows Superman and Batman, and they are a regularly near the top, but today many of the comics take an aficionado of the art to recognize. And then there comes the man at the top of this list by a wide margin. Many, particularly in America, may not even know his name. With a stunning 26 items on this list is Belgian George Remi, better known by his nom de plume, Hergé. If this were a Top 510, he would have had 29. Hergé was the creator of Tintin, admittedly very popular in France, and yet this number seems ridiculous. Shakespeare has never come close to this kind of literary success.

 

Much of what appears from Hergé and other comic creators is original art. Perhaps such should not be included in this list. Maybe it now takes too much space, but the reason for their inclusion arises from the days when few books on this list were preceded by the word "comic." Manuscripts and typescripts by authors were always included, as were illustrations for books. Who wouldn't have included Arthur Rackham, E. E. Shepherd, or even Dr. Seuss book art on such a list? They didn't make it this year. Now it means Hergé or Frank Frazetta. Consistency rules. At the end of this article, we will review a bit more as to what qualifies, and does not qualify, for this list.

 

Many of the Hergé items on this year's list were original artwork for Christmas and New Years cards (carte neige) he drew in 1942. This was wartime in Belgium and survival meant not doing anything that upset the Nazi occupiers too much. He had to be rather bland. Astonishingly, these all still took in amounts well into five figures if not more. A few other items included on this list might also appear marginal, but the connection to books and manuscripts is unmistakable. Three sets of doodles and drawings by Ronald Reagan appear on the list. If a manuscript from President Lincoln or Washington qualifies, why not a manuscript from President Reagan? Or how about a Nobel Prize medal? Not a work on paper, but if it is the Nobel Prize for literature awarded André Gide in 1947, how can we leave it out? Or how about this one, the piece de résistance of this list? For a mere $394,000, some lucky soul got to keep the chair used by J. K. Rowling while she wrote the first two Harry Potter books. Take a seat and see if it inspires you.

 

Before we get to the Top 10, here are few other selections from the Top 500. A link to the full Top 500 follows.

 

477. President William Henry Harrison appoints a U.S. Attorney for Louisiana. Harrison is hardly our most important President, but anything signed by him as President is extremely rare as he died only 30 days after taking office. $74,938.

 

387. An autograph manuscript by Isaac Newton on abstaining from consuming blood. While one of the greatest physicists and mathematicians who ever lived, Newton also was very learned on theology, particularly later in life. He took his bible seriously and literally. $83,425.

 

360. Retained copy of an unsent John F. Kennedy letter circa October 1963 from the White House to old friend Mary Pinchot Meyer, inviting her to meet him in Washington, Cape Cod, or Boston. Allegedly a JFK lover, he writes, "You say that it is good for me not to get what I want. After all of these years—you should give me a more loving answer than that. Why don’t you just say yes." It was only a little over a month later that he was assassinated. She too was murdered the following year, a murder that has never been solved. $88,970.

 

273. A 1768 broadside letter from John Hancock rallies opposition to taxes "imposed upon the people, without their consent." King George wasn't listening. $112,500.

 

163. The manual for landing the Lunar Module on the moon used during the first lunar landing in 1969. $175,000.

 

153. An autograph poem handwritten by Anne Frank in 1942. $182,574.

 

63. Manuscript navigation log kept by Captain Theodore Van Kirk on the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. $372,500.

 

46. Books don't have to be old to be valuable. One of seven manuscript copies by J. K. Rowling of Beedle the Bard, from 2007. $468,312.

 

15. Action Comics #1, from 1938, introduced Superman to the world. A very good, but not the best copy. What do you want for $956,000?

 

And now, for the Top 10:

 

10. On a marché sur la Lune, the 26th and highest ranked Hergé item. Tintin reached the moon 16 years before Neil Armstrong. The boards are for this April 1, 1953, comic where Tintin and friends experience weightlessness and observe the earth in the sky (see image with this article). $1,646,511.

 

9. A Wycliffite New Testament in the later translation to Middle English from the first half of the 15th century, a manuscript bible, naturally. This copy was once owned by Antarctic explorer and author Apsley Cherry-Garrard. $1,692,500.

 

8. The "authorized edition" of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward in 1864. One of 27 known surviving copies of a print run of 48, printed to benefit the Sanitary Commission. Check your attic to see if you have one of the 21 missing copies. $2,170,000.

 

7. De libris revolutionum eruditissimi viri...Doctoris Nicolai Copernici… Narratio prima, by Georg Joachim Rheticus, published in 1540. Rheticus is not a household name, but this was the first printed account of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the universe – the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. Rheticus was a disciple of Copernicus, who permitted him to publish the latter's manuscript. $2,400,420.

 

6. An extremely rare manuscript copy of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, published in 1865. It outlawed slavery. At the time it was still a resolution, adoption still almost a year away. This is the second item in the Top 10 whose value is determined by both its historic importance and the fact that it was signed by Abraham Lincoln. $2,410,000.

 

5. Hortus Eystettensis, by Basilius Besler, published in 1613. This is an extra-illustrated, contemporarily hand-colored copy of what was described as "the most celebrated florilegium ever published." For the record, a "florilegium," literally a gathering of flowers, refers to a collection of literary extracts. This spectacularly illustrated florilegium is a botanical work, sixteen years in the making. $2,548,260.

 

4. Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, by William Shakespeare, published in 1623. This is, of course, what is better known as a First Folio. Published just seven years after the author's death, his friends gathered 18 of his plays, almost half of which would have been lost forever were they not preserved in this book. $2,755,515.

 

3. Prelude [-- Fuga – Allegro] pour la Luth. ò Cembal, an autograph music manuscript by Johann Sebastian Bach, circa 1735-1740. This is a complete manuscript of one of Bach's works. $3,324,420.

 

2. Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, by Isaac Newton, the first edition, published in 1687. This one vies for the right to be called the most important scientific work ever published. Newton describes his laws of motion, gravity, etc. Copernicus and Galileo described what was happening in the universe; Newton explained why. $3,719,500.

 

1. The autograph manuscript for the Second Symphony (the Resurrection), the complete work (83 pages), by Gustav Mahler, completed in and dated 1894. This was described as "the greatest autograph music manuscript to be offered at auction for nearly thirty years." $5,682,812.

 

For a complete list of the Rare Book Hub Top 500 of 2016, click here.

 

 

 

Note on what appears on this list: first, when compiling a list of 500 items from close to 200 auction houses, it is possible that something was missed, or results were posted too late for inclusion. If so, it won't be many. Now, for the thornier issue – what qualifies for this list? The question is not as easy as it sounds.

 

Naturally, books and manuscripts of all sorts qualify. Pamphlets, broadsides, posters, and other printed and manuscript matter qualify. To this we add original artwork prepared specifically for a book. As noted earlier, comic books are included as "books." While comic books and even baseball cards appear on this list, we do not follow the specific comic and sports memorabilia online auctions, so these categories may be incomplete. They appear where included in more traditional auctions.

 

The hardest categories to evaluate are prints and photographs. Prints are works on paper, and we include many. However, if we included all prints, Warhol and Picasso would dominate this list year after year. The amount of money spent on their prints, let alone original art, is astronomical. However, this site is focused more on books and information than on art, which generates prices such as to make a First Folio look cheap. Such is the way it is. So we attempt to limit prints to those of a historic nature, or those designed more to convey information than beauty. The parameters for photographs are similar. Photographs as art also generate spectacular prices, but this site is not really about art. Therefore, we limit photographs to those of a historical nature, either depicting events rather than beauty, or those which are historic because they come from the first years of photography.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • Dominic Winter Auctioneers
    Auctions on June 19
    and June 20
    Dominic Winter, June 19: Lot 70 - Warner (Robert). The Orchid Album, 11 volumes, 1882-1897. £5,000 to £8,000
    Dominic Winter, June 19: Lot 151 - United States. Melish (John), Map of the United States with..., British & Spanish Possessions, 1816. £40,000 to £60,000
    Dominic Winter, June 19: Lot 159 - World. Speed (John), A New and Accurat Map of the World, 1676. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Dominic Winter Auctioneers
    Auctions on June 19
    and June 20
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 503 - American Civil War playing cards. Union Cards, New York: American Card Co., 1862. £500 to £800
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 573 - Shepard (Ernest Howard), 'The Hour is Come’, original watercolour, [1959]. £10,000 to £15,000
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 922 - Wilde (Oscar). An Ideal Husband, large paper limited issue, 1899. £4,000 to £6,000
    Dominic Winter Auctioneers
    Auctions on June 19
    and June 20
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 744 - Disney (Walt). “Sketch Book” [of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs], 1938. £700 to £1,000
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 771 - Auden (Wystan Hugh). Portrait of the head of W. H. Auden, 1970. £1,000 to £1,500
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 822 - Fleming (Ian). Goldfinger, 1st edition, signed by the author, 1959. £6,000 to £8,000
    Dominic Winter Auctioneers
    Auctions on June 19
    and June 20
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 895 - Rowling (J. K.). A complete inscribed set of Harry Potter books plus ephemera. £8,000 to £12,0000
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 883 - Orwell (George). Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1st edition, London: Secker & Warburg, 1949. £3,000 to £5,000
    Dominic Winter, June 20: Lot 700 - Ashendene Press. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerium Natura Libri Sex, Chelsea: Ashendene Press, 1913. £4,000 to £6,000
  • Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 4. Blaeu's Magnificent Carte-a-Figures World Map in Full Contemporary Color (1642) Est. $12,000 - $15,000
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 125. 1775 Edition of the Landmark Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia and Maryland (1775) Est. $15,000 - $18,000
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 673. Rare Frontispiece in Full Contemporary Color with Gilt Highlights (1662) Est. $4,000 - $4,750
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 717. Complete Tanner Atlas with Important Maps of Texas & Iowa (1845) Est. $4,000 - $4,750
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 3. Henricus Hondius' Baroque-Style World Map (1641) Est. $9,500 - $11,000
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 258. Complete Set of De Bry's Native Virginians & Picts from Part I of Grands Voyages (1608) Est. $2,750 - $3,500
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 608. Superb Work on 18th Century Russia with over 100 Maps and Plates (1788) Est. $3,500 - $4,250
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 49. One of the Most Important 16th Century Maps of the New World (1556) Est. $5,000 - $6,000
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 706. Superb Image of the Annunciation in Contemporary Hand Color (1518) Est. $900 - $1,100
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 123. One of the Earliest Maps to Show Philadelphia (1695) Est. $4,000 - $4,750
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 631. One of the Earliest Printed Maps of Afghanistan & Pakistan (1482) Est. $1,900 - $2,200
    Old World Auctions (Jun 5-19):
    Lot 689. Proof Copy Engraving of the Senate Floor During the Compromise of 1850 (1855) Est. $1,500 - $1,800
  • Bonhams, June 15-25: 18th Century American Sea Captain's Journals of Voyages to Hawaii, China, and South America. $35,000 - $45,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Admiral Richard E. Byrd's Autograph Diary from Bolling Advance Base, Winter 1934. $40,000 - $60,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Cellarius, Andreas. Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem, et novam exhibens. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Nobelist George Stigler's Copy of Ricardo's Classic on the Science of Economics. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris: F. L. Schmied, 1927. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Fine Copy of Walras's Classic on the Theory of Marginal Utility. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Arion Press Moby Dick. Melville, Herman. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Venegas, Miguel. Noticia de la California, y desu conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente. $7,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Carelton Watkins, Yosemite and the West. Portfolio of 21 imperial albumen prints. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: An Unpublished Archive of Thornton Wilder Correspondence to F.J. O'Neil. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Vesalius, Andreas. 1514-1564. Suorum de humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome. $100,000 - $150,000
  • Bonhams, June 25: Vesalius, Andreas. 1514-1564. De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. $200,000 - $300,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Gersdorff, Hans Von. 1455-1529. Feldtbuch der wundartzney. $40,000 - $60,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Pare, Ambroise. C.1509-1590. La Methode Curative des Playes, et Fractures de la Teste humaine. Avec les pourtraits des Instruments necessaires pour la curation d'icelles. $25,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Reisch, Gregor. 1470-1525. Margarita Philosophica. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bright, Richard. 1789-1858. Reports of Medical Cases, Selected with a View of Illustrating the Symptoms and Cure of Diseases by a Reference to Morbid Anatomy. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Berengario da Carpi, Giacomo. C. 1460-1530. Tractatus de fractura calve sive cranei. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Vicq D'Azyr, Felix. 1748-1794. Traite d'antomie et de physiologie. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Croce, Giovanni Andrea Della. 1509?-1775. Chirurgia libri septem... $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bruno Da Longburgo. 1200-1286. La cyrogia di Maistro Bruno: Expertissimo in quella. Tradutta in vulgare. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Schwann, Theodor. 1810-1882. Mikroskopische Untersuchungen uber die Ubereinstimmung in der Struktur und dem Wachsthum der Thiere und Pflanzen. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Cowper, William. 1666-1709. The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, with Figures Drawn after the Life… $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bidloo, Govard. 1649-1713. Anatomia humani corporis, centum & quinque tabulis, per artificiossis. G. de Lairesse ad vivum delineatis. $6,000 - $9,000

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