NEW YORK — Fine Books & Autographs are at Swann Galleries Thursday, October 28 with a selection of exceedingly rare material set to hit the auction block. Autographs, literature and art books alike will feature scarce to market offerings ranging from pop culture phenoms and scientists to groundbreaking writers and visual artists. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Leading the autographs portion of the sale is a scarce signature from Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. On offer, in a season marking 30 years since the album’s release, is a signed Nevermind CD, which comes to auction through a former employee of Tower Records who had Cobain sign the CD during Nirvana’s in-store performance at the East 4th Street location in September of 1991.
Items from visual artists include an archive of 15 letters and notes from 1946 to 1969 Marc Chagall to a number of figures, including collector Adolphe A. Juviler, estimated at $5,000-$7,500; a 1957 letter from Marcel Duchamp listing the artworks by Kandisnky in the collection of Katherine Sophie Dreier, estimated at $3,000-$4,000; as well as a 1985 postcard announcing an exhibition of works by Keith Haring, signed by him and with an original drawing, estimated at $3,000-$4,000.
Other autograph highlights include those by popular literary figures, politicians, and scientists. Mark Twain is on offer with a signed receipt for payment of the Mark Twain Public Library Tax — in 1908, after moving to Redding, Connecticut, Twain formed the Mark Twain Library Association, intending to build a public library for the community, humorously imposing a single dollar tax upon his visitors to raise funds for a building. The signed receipt is estimated at $10,000-$15,000. Herman Melville is present with an autograph letter signed in 1888, written to his wife’s cousin, sending her one of his books. It is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
From Simon Bolivar, written as President of Gran Colombia in 1828, is a lengthy letter signed to the first president of Bolivia on war with Peru and Spanish invasion, estimated at $10,000-$20,000. Material from American politicians includes an archive of 19 typed letters from Franklin D. Roosevelt, some as president, to onetime fellow New York state senator John Godfrey Saxe II, dating from 1920 to 1942, estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
Remarkable finds from scientists include a 1928 lithographic portrait by Emil Orik of Albert Einstein and signed by both, estimated at $5,000-$7,500. Also on offer is a group of autograph letters signed by Nikola Tesla, including one from March 1895, offering thanks for sympathies expressed after his Fifth Avenue laboratory burned to the ground stating, “I am not broken in spirit, quite the contrary.” It is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
The literature portion of the sale includes four books from the personal library of Jorge Luis Borges, with his characteristic notations, estimated at $1,500-$2,500; a finely bound example of Moliere’s Oeuvres; Nouvelle Edition from 1734, estimated at $1,200-$1,800; a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbournes’s 1894 book The Ebb-Tide. A Trio and Quartette, the first to appear at auction in the exceedingly rare dust jacket; as well as a run of Russian Constructivist works.
Leading the art books portion is a run of desirable works by Robert Indiana: The Book of Love from 1997, one of just 15 Artist’s Proofs produced, estimated at $100,000-$125,000); Numbers, from 1968, estimated at $35,000-$50,000; as well as Ten Works by Ten Painters from 1964, featuring Indiana, Stuart Davis, Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol and others. This last carries an estimate of $30,000-$40,000. Also among art books is Gustav Klimt’s 1918 portfolio Das Werk, estimated at $15,000-$20,000; and Marc Chagall’s Lithographe I-VI, spanning 1960–86 and estimated at $2,500-$3,500.
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