An Exceptional Auction December 3rd
Part one, 250 lots.
By Bruce McKinney
On December 3rd, in New York, Christie's pays homage to the changing logic of the books, manuscripts and ephemera auction field with a two part sale that seeks to and succeeds at bridging the trapeze leap between the highly interesting and exceptionally valuable. In this sale both are present and collectors should take note.
The auction business has been ever attracted to more expensive lots. It's understandable. There's more money in it. But most people learn to drive a Ford before they acquire their Rolls and this auction allows the up and coming auction buyer a place in the auction rooms during the same sales where iconic material will change hands at significant prices. Adding an edge to the sales, the estimates are attractive.
The auction is in two parts: 250 lots of Printed and Manuscript Americana followed by 330 more of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts. The average high and low estimates are $9,575 and $6,706, the total of the high estimates $5.55 million. Fifty-four of the lots have high estimates of $1,000 or less. The consignors include the Anderson Family YMCA, the Collection of Mark Wooley, the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, Justin and Margaret Krasnoff, the Estate of Mrs. Charles W. Englehard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Springfield Museums, and two anonymous.
In the first session Americana in many forms is offered: books, signed copies, books with maps, newspapers, ephemera, photographs, blueprints, drawings and color swatches. The very definition of Americana that Christies employs broadens to conform to changing tastes. In the second session an array of material is offered that includes both the ancient and the scientific and then fiction; firsts and signed copies, illustrated books, and correspondence. The unifying concept is "collectible."
Lot 242 is "an archive of drawings and blue prints from Davenport Co., and McKim, Mead & White, 1902." These are plans and drawings for the 1902 renovation of the White House, by A. H. Davenport. Theodore Roosevelt, who would put his stamp on the 20th century, first put his imprint on the presidential residence. The material is described as lots 213 to 247. It will be offered as a single lot with an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000 and also offered as individual lots if it fails to sell as a collection.
Lot 209 is a collection of 529 albumin photographs of Arizona and California taken by Carleton Watkins in the 1870s. Words explain but images transport. To anyone who has asked or will ever ask why a collector reconstructs a period these images provide eloquent explanation. It's estimated at $30,000 to $40,000.
If you have had a good year you may want to add lot 152, a signed photograph of A. Lincoln, taken 9 August 1863, to your valued possessions. In the collecting world the market increasingly divides between the iconic and the merely collectible. Within the world of icons there is of course a pecking order. Here you are face to face on the top wrung. It's estimated $70,000 to $90,000.
An Exceptional Auction December 3rd
Part Two, 330 lots.
Lot 138 is interesting. It's the 1787 printing of Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia." This is not the first edition which is exceptionally rare and highly prized but it is nevertheless a very good book to own. Some books matter more than others. This is one of them. It's estimated $20,000 to $30,000.
Lots 40 to 57 include an array of Lewis and Clarke material. The requisite first edition of The History of the Expedition  is offered at $90,000 to $120,000. For L&C aficionados there are more than a dozen other relating lots. This path is well traveled, the material well documented, the market competitive.
For those who collect Poughkeepsie material because it's the least ambiguous search on the web today, there is lot 75, Thomas J., Farnham's "Travels in the Great Western Prairies, the Anahuac and Rocky Mountains, and the Oregon Territory." This is the first printing, done in Poughkeepsie in 1841 by Killey and Lossing who were then publishing a newspaper. Lossing would go on to become the widely known 19th century American historian. Farnham's second book, "Travels in the Californias, and scenes in the Pacific Ocean...," published in 1844 in a place with a less arresting name, is included in the Zamorano 80 [no. 36]. The book in this sale is a much rarer, if not quite so coveted, volume. It is estimated at $2,000 to $3,000.
After lunch the hammer will fall on another 330 lots. With fiction there is a sense of "the time machine" so prepare yourself for Dr. Seuss to be on the same menu with James Fenimore Cooper. If these are east and west, then north and south are Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations  and Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Woman with strictures on moral and political subjects," the Philadelphia edition published in 1792. Somewhere in between are Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce who are literarily on different planets but side by side on bar stools. The afternoon material is eclectic but consistently first tier.
Lot 558. Dr. Seuss [Theodore Geisel]. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  Estimated at $3,000 to $4,000
Lots 401-447. "A remarkable collection of first editions and association copies from the works of James Fenimore Cooper."
Lot 338. Adam Smith. "Wealth of Nations..."  $40,000 to $60,000
Lot 379. Mary Wollstonecraft. Vindication on the Rights... Estimates $3,000 to $4000
Lots 481-501. Ernest Hemingway. A selection of first and signed editions as well as correspondence.
Lots 504 and 505. James Joyce. Ulysses. First edition, first issue of the regular printing. Paris, 1922. Estimated $20,000 to $30,000. Also Finnegans Wake, London, 1939. The first English edition. Estimated $1,500 to $2,500.
Here is a link to the entire sale in AE's upcoming auctions.
By the end of the day there should be many exuberant new owners.