Christie's Rare Books Taking the Plunge

- by Announcement, Rare Book Hub staff


At Christie’s New York, the Books & Manuscripts department is plunging right in to the New Year with two important single-owner collections in January.  The first is Exceptional Prints and Broadsides from the Collection of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II, in a live Americana auction at 10am, January 22. This will be closely followed by the library of Mr. & Mrs. John H. Gutfreund with both a selection of books in the live, single-owner auction on January 27 and a dedicated online sale of books open for bidding from January 14-29. All of these sales are open for browsing now on The starting bids (reserves) for the online sale will be revealed when bidding opens on 14 January at 10am EST.


The Gutfreund sales will take place during Bibliography Week, so we’ll also take the opportunity to support the outstanding virtual program put together by our friends at the Bibliographical Society of America. The Annual Meeting is on Friday, January 29 with the keynote address on the vital theme of “Liberation Bibliography.”


Auction Calendar for Christie’s New York Books & Manuscripts:


EXCEPTIONAL PRINTS AND BROADSIDES FROM THE COLLECTION OF AMBASSADOR J. WILLIAM MIDDENDORF II features important prints and documents from the early history of the United States. Highlights such as a rare contemporary 1776 broadside edition of the Declaration of Independence and  a fine copy of Paul Revere’s iconic engraving of the Boston Massacre are supported by a diverse array of period broadsides and prints.

Ambassador Middendorf's passion for the early history of this nation is well known among Americana collectors. His groundbreaking 1969 survey, American Printmaking The First 150 Years, represented the first time that images of the most important historical prints in what is now the United States were assembled in a single catalogue. That volume was a compliment to a national touring exhibition that helped reignite interest in the field among both scholars and collectors. The text was by Middendorf's curator, Wendy J. Shadwell, and is frequently cited.

The current selection offers a parallel representation of early American visual culture. It ranges from John Foster's 1677 woodcut map of New England to a satirical print lampooning Andrew Jackson's administration, and from Revere's Massacre to the Declaration of Independence. The Ambassador's assessment of the significance of the pieces in his introduction for his 1969 catalogue holds true for the present selection: "Taken as a group these prints probably do represent the only consistent pictorial record that we have of the people and their way of life, and of historical events on these shores. Rarely do they reach significant artistic heights. But often in their very crudeness one sees a clear statement, a primitive directness that might be admired in the way one can find aesthetic satisfaction in a Hicks Peaceable Kingdom."


BOOKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF MR. & MRS. JOHN H. GUTFREUND FROM 834 FIFTH AVENUE will be sold both in the live collection sale, featuring a colored copy of Maria Sibylla Merian's work on the insects of Suriname alongside the furniture pattern books of the 18th century, classic works on landscape gardening and architecture, fine bindings, and a dedicated online sale. The online sale celebrates the beauty of the book arts writ large, featuring many fine French, Russian, and English bindings; notable presentation copies; and noble associations. The collection is dominated by festival books documenting the luxury of Versailles; herbals and botanicals whose engravings and lithographs capture the riches of the natural world; and copious curiosities of ornament, architecture, art, and design. Highlights include the monumental Description du Sacre et du Couronnement de leurs Majestes Imperiales l'Empereur Alexandre II et l'Imperatrice Marie Alexandrovna, depicting the sumptuous coronation of Czar Alexander II; Fontana's Templum Vaticanum in a green morocco presentation binding for Czar Paul I. Last but not least is the attractive group of finely bound Royal Almanacs in the live sale. What better way to ring in the New Year than by relishing these handsome tokens of years past?


We wish you a 2021 full of peace and prosperity! 


Christina Geiger (, contact for Rosenberg and Baum sales)

Peter Klarnet (, contact for Middendorf sale and manuscript consignments)

Fernando Peña (, contact for printed book consignments)

Heather Weintraub (currently on maternity leave, congratulations Heather!)

Rhiannon Knol (, contact for Gutfreund sales)

Gillian Hawley (, sale coordinator)