NEW YORK – Swann Galleries’ sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts on Nov. 17 saw great success across categories with a 90% sell-through rate by lot and closed above the total high-estimate at $675,481. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
“Literature tipped over to an eye-opening 95% of all lots sold. Steadfast buyer confidence, a constant throughout the entire sale, drove high prices via a multitude of bidding platforms,” remarked John Larson, the Swann’s specialist for literature and art books. Enthusiasm for Jane Austen proved to be enduring as 100% of the 12 works by the author on offer found buyers. The success of the editions comes after the house offered a complete run of first editions of Austen’s novels in rare period binding earlier in the year. Highlights from this sale’s selection included first editions of Pride and Prejudice, 1813 ($75,000); Sense and Sensibility, 1811 ($57,500); Mansfield Park, 1814 ($16,250); Emma, 1816 ($15,000); and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, 1818 ($10,625).
Additional 19th century literature of note included an exceptional association copy of Charles Dickens’ American Notes for General Circulation, 1842. The first edition presentation copy from Dickens’ first tour in the United States included an inscription to Richard Henry Dana Jr., the author of the memoir Two Years Before the Mast, and sold for $35,000. John Keats’ Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, 1820 ($9,375), and an inscribed presentation copy of Oscar Wilde’s Poems, 1882 ($6,250), also featured.
Twentieth century literature saw success with a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960, by Harper Lee with an inscribed leaf laid into the edition ($6,750); and a first edition of the most influential economic work of the 20th century John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936 ($7,000). Of the autographs offering specialist Marco Tomaschett noted, “signed books performed surprisingly well. An Albert Schweitzer inscribed book realized three times the high estimate at $2,250; two uncommon books signed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry both exceeded their high estimates at $3,250 and $1,820; and most surprising was an uncommon pamphlet signed and inscribed by Ezra Pound that realized six times the high estimate at $7,500.”
Americana also proved to be popular among autograph buyers. Highlights included partly printed documents in three languages, signed by George Washington as president and counter-signed by Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state, granting permission to a ship in 1894 ($22,500); Abraham Lincoln as president with the 1863 issue ordering New York to furnish 2,050 troops under the Enrollment Act of March 3, 1863 ($18,750); and John Hancock as president of the Continental Congress issuing an uncommon privateer commission during the Revolutionary War ($9,375); as well as an autograph letter signed by Alexander Hamilton as secretary of the treasury helping the Bank of the United States to quell the panic of 1792 ($11,875).
Illustrated works included a signed deluxe limited edition of Alexander Calder’s Calder’s Circus, New York, 1964 ($6,240); a first edition of Aubrey Beardsley’s The Lysistrata of Aristophanes, London 1896 ($5,000); Maurice Utrillo’s La Rue Norvins à Montmartre, Paris, 1952, published for the 25th anniversary of the Societe Francaise d’Assurance pour Favoriser le Credit ($3,120); Auguste H. Thomas’s Formes et Couleurs, a 1921 album of 20 brilliantly colored plates ($1,235); and a limited edition copy of Omar Khavyám’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: A Personal Selection from the Five Editions of Edward FitzGerald, London, 1980, printed by the Curwen Press and signed by the editor ($1,062).
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