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book fair

PBA Galleries’ Feb. 6 auction an entree to LA-area book fair

book fair
One of the 121 lithographs contained in David Roberts’ ‘Egypt & Nubia.’ PBA Galleries image

BERKELEY, Calif. – PBA Galleries invites bidders to join them for a special auction in Southern California on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 10 a.m. Pacific time. The sale will feature rare books and manuscripts and takes place prior to the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America book fair in Pasadena, Calif. Held in the Piazza Ballroom of the Pasadena Sheraton (303 E. Cordova St.), it will be just next door to the Pasadena Convention Center, where the 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

The first half of the auction will be devoted to books donated by ABAA members to benefit the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Benevolent Fund, which was established to support all booksellers in times of distress. The descriptions of the books are by the donor members, and we have worked with them to set fair estimates for the wide range of fine material. In the second part of the sale, PBA will offer rare books and manuscripts.

In both parts of the sale, noteworthy editions of works by historically influential authors will be on offer. Standouts include the 1860 second edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in the original cloth, a rare version of what remains one of the most important scientific works of the 19th century ($10,000-$15,000). In psychology, no figure looms as large as Sigmund Freud: The auction features an autograph letter signed by Freud to a colleague. The letter is about a prospective female patient who he deemed not suitable for psychoanalysis. Instead, Freud recommends that the patient contact Carl Jung, Freud’s one-time disciple but later rival ($10,000-$15,000). Other noteworthy letters in the auction include PBA’s rare letter from inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla to photographer William Schley, about a photograph to be taken of an “apparatus.” The letter was written in 1896, the year Tesla harnessed the power of Niagara Falls ($10,000-$15,000).

book fair
Letter from Nikola Tesla. PBA Galleries image

Travel histories, illustrations and photography abounds, representing the best of Californiana and beyond. In conjunction with the sale’s location in Southern California, PBA will offer W.W. Elliott’s rare History of San Bernardino County with a section on San Diego county. The tome contains 88 lithographed plates of views, some double-page, and including a striking bird’s-eye view of the Redlands colony ($6,000-$8,000). Across the map, Francis Firth’s Sinai and Palestine features 37 original mounted albumen photographs of Sinai and Palestine, with superb views of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Damascus, Gaza, the Sinai peninsula and more. This rare set is in the 12 original parts with the original wrappers, and is considered the “best edition” published by William Mackenzie in 1862 ($8,000-$12,000).

book fair
A photo from Francis Frith’s ‘Sinai & Palestine’ in original parts. PBA Galleries image

Likewise, David Roberts’ great illustrated work Egypt and Nubia from Drawings Made on the Spot exhibits 121 superb lithographs printed by Louis Haghe. The three volumes in two (1846-49) are bound in full red morocco and elaborately tooled in gilt ($40,000-$60,000).

Other highlights include a rare album of 46 large original albumen photographs by Isaiah W. Taber, which were assembled for advertising and marketing his studio. The photographs encompass views of his studio and various scenes from San Francisco and the Bay Area, Yosemite, Carmel, Santa Barbara, and more ($80,000-$120,000).

book fair
Rare Taber photograph album. PBA Galleries image

From the early modern period, a suite of 24 hand-colored large-format mezzotint plates by John Martin were created to illustrate the 1827 two-volume edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost published by Septimus Prowett. The plates were bound in full navy-blue levant morocco tooled in gilt, a stunning presentation ($15,000-$25,000).

book fair
Colored mezzotints for ‘Paradise Lost.’ PBA Galleries image

Noteworthy letters include a rare original letter from Pierre Toussaint, a one-time slave from Haiti, who emigrated to New York with his master after the Revolution and became a hairdresser to high-society ladies. He helped found a Catholic orphanage and has been beatified and proposed for canonization as the first African American male saint ($5,000-$8,000).

The sale will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. For more information, contact PBA Galleries at 415-989-2665 or

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