Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2021 Issue

The personal collection of William [Bill] S. Reese is to be sold by Christie's beginning in May, 2022

Bill Reese, who passed away in 2018, was both a rare book dealer and a collector of Americana, other books, prints, and art.  It was a great privilege for me to be his client for a decade.  In 2002, Bill Reese became the very first member of Americana Exchange (now RareBookHub).  In 2022 his exceptional personal collection will be sold at Christie's and it will be a monumental event.


The collection, acquired over decades, will be dispersed in a matter of days and hours:  his fourteen thousand days in the field, converted into "May I have an opening bid?  On the left, yes in the back and on the right!"  The sales are going to be memorable.


Although auctions - no matter how important - are brief events, auction houses have long known how to convey long-term significance.  In this era,  the cataloguing and photography will be remarkable.  The auction catalogue will live on to become a valued reference, taking its place alongside those of George Brinley, Robert Hoe and Thomas Streeter.  Bill's personal selections will be accorded respect.  And virtually every item will then be forever remembered as "Bill Reese's copy" or "the Reese copy."  Such formalities are well understood but are rarely consistently applied.  I have no doubt Christie's will convey a sense of homage.  He earned it.


Auction Announcement provided by Christies


Across the latter decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, few individuals contributed so greatly to the field of American rare books as William Sherman Reese (1955-2018). The founder of the eponymous William Reese Company of New Haven, Connecticut, he was a seminal figure in antiquarian Americana—a man whose expertise and intellect left an indelible impact on both his trade and the nation’s most important rare book collections. For William Reese, rare books and manuscripts existed at the intersection of what he described as “text and icon, appealing to us in both an intellectual and physical sense.” For nearly half a century, Reese embodied the curiosity, engagement, and passion for history at the heart of both text and icon. He left a legacy in connoisseurship that continues to grow.


It is our great honor to announce that the Private Collection of William S. Reese will be sold in a series of four dedicated auctions in 2022, at Christie’s New York, Rockefeller Center.


In counterpoint to Reese’s extraordinary renown as a bookdealer and philanthropist, the extent of his personal collecting has been relatively little known. When the books, paintings, manuscripts, prints, and artefacts are shown at Christie’s next spring, it will be the first time in over 30 years that any portion of the current collection has been publicly exhibited—with the exception of one volume in the “Grolier Club Collects II” exhibition in 2016. The book Reese selected then was acquired by him in the late 1980s: a presentation copy of Herman Melville’s Typee, 1865, given by the author to Henry Smythe, collector of the Port of New York.


However, Reese’s fascination with the world of printed things began with birds and John James Audubon, pre-dating his Melville and other author collections. The several fine prints from Audubon’s Birds of America are among the items which were probably acquired the earliest. Reese shared an enthusiasm for these prints with his father and the two made collecting trips together from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Philadelphia and New York when Bill Reese was a teenager. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the more recent items acquired is a July 1776 broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence—likely the first printed in Massachusetts—which was won at the James Copley auction in 2010.  The Reese Collection is as strong in colonial, Revolutionary, and Federal Americana as it is in American color-plate and Western Americana.


Indeed, across all categories of printed Americana—plus Melville, natural history, travel, and literature—William Reese’s private collection is every bit as inspiring an achievement as his life and career. We deeply look forward to presenting it to the public over the coming months.


Auction Schedule


MAY 2022


Evening sale devoted to New World Exploration and Americana to 1814


Day sale with morning session of Americana after 1814 and the “Best of the West”; afternoon session of Natural History, Travel, and  Literature


Online auction with diverse subjects including favorite authors, Yale, American practical arts including architecture, and bibliophily





The Collection will be presented in three fully-illustrated and cloth-bound auction catalogues. Advance orders are recommended and can be made online at the Christie’s Catalogue Shop.


Other enquiries:

Christina Geiger




Twitter: @ChristiesBKS  #ReeseCollectionChristies

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000

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