Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2022 Issue

A Glimpse of the Kislak Collecting Magic: At Auction 4/26

Jay Kislak’s name is familiar to the vast majority of readers of Rare Book Monthly, but thanks to “Exploring the Early Americas,” the ongoing exhibition at the Library of Congress of selections from his incomparable collection of books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts documenting the history and cultures of Florida, the Caribbean, and Mesoamerica, Jay’s name is also known to countless others whose vocations or avocations do not revolve around the world of rare books. On the other hand, because of Jay’s generosity in donating his collection to the nation, the book world was deprived of the spectacle of a Jay Kislak sale, which would undoubtedly have taken its place with the greatest Americana auctions of all time, from Brinley to Streeter.

But because Jay didn’t—or couldn’t—stop collecting once the contents of his shelves, cabinets, and vitrines had been transferred to 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, D.C., the book world will get a tiny glimpse of what an auction of the Jay Kislak Collection might have been like. On April 26, with a presale exhibition on view for the duration of the ABAA Book Fair taking place a few blocks away, Sotheby’s will offer a little more than a hundred lots from Jay’s post-LC collecting. (Nor was his collecting restricted to book and manuscripts. This auction year Sotheby’s has sold more than $20,000,000 of property from Jay’s collections, in both New York and London, in departments as diverse as Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Prints, Photographs, Chinese Works of Art, American Art, Old Master Paintings and Drawings, Americana, and Design.)

The books and manuscripts are expected to add another $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 to support the philanthropies of the Kislak Family Foundation, for whose benefit they are being sold. And the books and manuscripts, though relatively small in number, themselves demonstrate the range of Jay’s intellect and interest.

Americana, not surprisingly, predominates including spectacular sets, each with distinguished provenance, of two of the finest illustrated works of their respective times: the magnificent Jean Perrette set of the Great and Small Voyages collected and published by the De Bry family ($400,000–600,000) and the Frank Streeter copy of J. F. W. De Barres’s Atlantic Neptune ($700,000–1,000,000). Other great works of early seafaring and exploration are Richard Eden’s 1572 The Arte of Navigation ($120,000–180,000) and both William Bourne’s 1574 Regiment for the Sea ($100,000–150,000) and his 1578 Treasure for Traueilers ($20,000–30,000).

Manuscript Americana is represented by letters and documents by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Anthony Wayne, Joseph Brant, Zachary Taylor, Ronald Reagan—even Louis Armstrong (if jazz isn’t Americana, what is?).

But the real surprise of the sale is the scope and significance of the non-Americana. This portion of the sale is headed by an important association copy of the second, 1566, edition of Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium ($200,000–300,000). This copy, part of the edition that first incorporated Georg Rheticus’s Narratio prima, was owned and annotated by two seventeenth-century Copernican scholars, Henry Briggs and Henry Gellibrand; in the twentieth century it was part of the fabled science library of Harrison Horblit.

Other notable non-Americana include a copy of Jean Baptiste Geoffroy's ca. 1873 Nouveau dictionnaire élémentaire latin-français, annotated with some 350 pen and ink drawings by the sixteen-year-old Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's ($150,000–200,000); an autograph letter draft by Jay’s fellow aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry incorporating three original pencil sketches of the Little Prince ($5,000–7,000); a three-page autograph letter signed twice by Admiral Horatio Nelson to Sir William Hamilton, May 1799, during the blockade of Naples ($15,000–20,000); and Daniel Giraud Elliot’s Monograph of the Felidae or Family of Cats, dramatically illustrated by Josef Wolf ($50,000–70,000)

To register to bid or for more information, please see https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2022/books-and-manuscripts-from-the-collection-of-jay-i-kislak-sold-to-benefit-the-kislak-family-foundation?locale=en.

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
    Sotheby’s
    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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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