A Strong October Auction Schedule
Interesting material, competitively estimated
By Bruce McKinney
If summer is a receding memory then the books, manuscripts and ephemera auction season must be upon us. A glance at the October auction calendar confirms it. As of September 27th 52 sales are scheduled and another 10 or so expected to post their schedules shortly. In 2005 and 2006 more than 25,000 lots were offered in the 10th month. If historical form holds, 75% of the lots posted this year will sell for $35,000,000 to $50,000,000. Today, in the world of rare books, this is where the heavy lifting takes place.
From year over year comparisons various trends emerge. Perhaps the most telling is the lead-time to sale index. Four years ago, the internet was for most auction houses a non-event or even an after-thought. Less material was posted and what was put up was typically posted less than a week ahead of sale. Today the average lead-time to sale is double that and increasing. Time favors consignors and auction houses and they are posting earlier to increase both audience and realizations. Both Sotheby’s and Christies, who have dominated the rooms for years, often post their sales almost a month ahead. Bonhams, PBA and Bloomsbury also consistently post well ahead.
This October the auction schedule is deep and still building as we go to press. I'll discuss a handful of the upcoming sales and suggest you use the
at the top of our pages to search for any term or terms that if present in the full text descriptions of upcoming lots may be of interest to you personally. You never know when and where your ship will come in. Among random searches I ran this afternoon Iowa finds 9, Mark Twain 13, postcard 10, Lincoln 19, and election 12. Shakespeare finds 36, Whitman 15, Churchill 27, Maugham 5, and Cervantes 5. Almost every term and phrase finds some matches and new material is always appearing and disappearing. It's different every day. Over the past twelve months we covered more than 200,000 lots encompassing more than half a million items.
During the first week of October there are 10 sales: Bruun Rasmussen, Dominic Winter, Waverly, Bloomsbury [London], Samuel Freeman, Christies, Sothebys, Clars, JMW and Alain & Evelyne Morel de Westgaver. In the second week the number declines to 5: Bonhams, New England Book, Swann, PBA and Johns' Western Gallery. In the third week there are 22 sales, 11 sales in week 4 and 6 more in the final 3 days. Other sales, like dandelions, will appear at random, be celebrated for a moment and disappear into history. When the month is over perhaps 60 auctions will have come and gone.
Side by side, Friday to Saturday, October 4th to the 5th there is Christie's Anatomy as Art: The Dean Edell Collection with a copy of Vesalius' 1543 "De humani corporis fabrica libri septem" estimated $200,000 to $300,000 followed on Saturday by the sale at JMW Auction Gallery in Kingston, New York, of the entire 90,000 item inventory of the Zobel Book Service, sold as a single lot, with a starting bid of $1,000. On Sunday Clars Auction Gallery of Oakland, California disperses an interesting private collection of books that will be visible on line shortly. A nice set of Marshall's Life of Washington, [first French edition], with the map volume is one of the items offered.
A Strong October Auction Schedule
A sale that makes you read every lot description
New England Book periodically offers a run of premium material and the 9th is one of those occasions. Swann's autographs sale on the 11th provides an opportunity to acquire a John Adams signature for $800 to $1,200 and a serious Jefferson letter to his friend Marquis de la Fayette estimated at $35,000 to $50,000. On the same day PBA is offering a nice copy of the 9th volume of Curtis’ Indians and a copy of the Book of Mormon estimated $50,000 to $80,000. John’s Western Gallery is offering 265 lots on Mining, Railroads & Exploration of the American West on the 12th. The sale includes a run of California local histories.
During the week of the 14th to the 20th you have the option, on the average to consider a new sale every 8 hours. Sotheby's offers two days of photographic images, Christie's two photography sales on the 17th, Bloomsbury "The Library of the Late Erica Spender" on the 18th. Many other sales both in the United States and in Europe have been scheduled but details are not yet posted.
During the week of the 21st Bloomsbury will conduct their second sale in New York, this one named "Important Printed Books and Manuscripts." A week later, they hold their first Americana sale in the new world. Bonhams will sell in San Francisco and Los Angeles, on October 22nd, an eclectic mixture of very old and not so old collectible works on paper. A very nice catalogue is available. On the 25th PBA disperses the reference library of Jeffrey Thomas.
Heritage of Dallas is offering a series of sales. We are covering their "Grand Format Rare Books & Manuscripts Auction" on October 25th and 26th. Also on the 26th Dorothy Sloan will offer "Auction 21, High Spots of Texas, the West, Mexico & the Borderlands: Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts, Iconography, Ephemera." The sale is to be held at Badu House in Llano, Texas. On the 31st Leslie Hindman continues to breathe life back into Chicago book auction trade with a sale on collectible books.
In between these events are many others I haven't mentioned and empty spaces on the calendar that will fill up as the month progresses. What we can say for sure is that the auction season is underway.