Announcing The AE Top 500 Prices at Auction for 2007
Sotheby's auctions a Magna Carta (photo courtesy of Sotheby's).
By Michael Stillman
With the close of another year, it is time to look back at the highest priced books and related ephemera at auction last year. We have scoured the results at all of the major auction houses and a great many smaller ones to come up with the AE 500 top prices at auction for 2007.
Five items made it into the million-dollar category in 2007, down from seven the previous year. However, at the top, number one exceeded last year's top price of just over $5 million by fourfold. Particularly interesting was the price at the bottom of the list -- number 500. That figure was $72,000, almost a 20% increase from the $60,192 price of number 500 in 2006. That is a good sign that prices remain very strong at the top end of the book market.
Before running down the top 10, we will mention a few of the other interesting items which made it into the AE 500. A link to the complete Top 500 can be found at the end of this list.
Among those tied at #500 were a first edition King James Bible, the first printing of a portion of the Book of Mormon in the Reflector newspaper, and a Religious Discourse Delivered in the Synagogue in this City [New York]...26th November, 1789, supporting George Washington's call for a day of thanksgiving. Equal opportunity is provided all faiths. $72,000.
At 463 is a portrait of a very young (circa 1858) John D. Rockefeller, when he was working as a bookkeeper in Cleveland, before striking out on his own in the oil business. $77,350. Number 462 is a huge collection of 550 manuscript documents from the Bernard family of Louisiana from 1780-1880. The family patriarch first came to America to engage in the slave trade, and the next generations used slaves to operate their lumber mill as well as perform domestic duties. $77,675.
At 284 is a copy of the Shakespeare Second Folio, probably the only privately held one in Australia, though it made it there through the famed American bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1935. $128,150. Number 243 is an archive of items, including a lock of hair, from South American revolutionary Che Guevara, from the CIA agent who buried him. $119,500. For those who prefer Yankee imperialists, number 235 is a dual signed photograph of New York Yankee greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. $120,000.
Number 152 is one of only two manuscript letters from William Henry Harrison as President known to exist. There are so few because he died a month into office. $167,300. Tied at 142 are a protested lack of personal ambition in a letter by Oliver Cromwell to his son's father-in-law and an autographed letter from Calvin concerning an attempted suicide. $171,444. Number 118 is something of a pricing standard for Americana -- a first edition "Lewis and Clark" -- and it bodes well. $193,000. Another copy, number 72, sold for $288,000. Number 43 is Navigator Theodore Van Kirk's log from the Enola Gay as they flew over and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. $358,500.
Announcing The AE Top 500 Prices at Auction for 2007
Dorothea Lange's White Angel Breadline captures the Depression in its depressing reality. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
And now, for the top 10.
10. Sir Robert Dudley's great English sea atlas of 1661, Arcano del Mare. $824,000.
9. Large paper first edition from 1857 of Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. $859,198.
8. De Architectura, written by Vitruvius Pollio in the first century B.C., herein edited by Johannes Sulpitius and published circa 1487. $881,000.
7. French translation of The Bestiary, an illustrated vellum manuscript circa 1280-90. $910,490.
6. The working draft manuscript from 1938-39 for Alcoholics Anonymous. $992,000.
5. Edward S. Curtis' North American Indian Portfolio, sixteen portfolios and sixteen text volumes from the early 20th century. $1,080,000.
4. Christopher Saxton's An Atlas of England and Wales, published 1579-90. $1,366,654.
3. Vita Christi, an illuminated English vellum manuscript in Latin circa 1190-1200 with a later supplement to become a devotional. $3,470,721.
2. Near the very end of the auction season, on December 13, a very un-antiquarian work became the auction price leader of 2007. The title is The Tales of Beedle the Bard, an autograph manuscript created very recently by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. $3,979,950.
1. Five days later, at the very end of the season, the top spot on the list was secured by one of the most important documents ever written, a 1297 manuscript copy of the Magna Carta. $21,321,000.
The complete AE Top 500 may be viewed by clicking here:
AE Top 500
Note: The Americana Exchange tracks sales at all of the large, and many other auction houses, some 140+ in all. Included in this list are books, manuscripts, and related ephemeral items. In certain cases, notably lithographs and photographs, we have had to use some discretion in deciding what should appear. With images and artwork, we have chosen to include it if the work was prepared for a book, presented in a book, or is primarily of historic value. Audubon's drawings appear. So do those of Albrecht Durer because of his close association with early printing. However, we leave out images primarily of artistic value and with no notable connection to books. As a result, we have excluded Rembrandt, Picasso and Warhol (whose printed art would fill the top 500 if included). We have included historic photography such as certain scenic early photographs of Ansel Adams and Depression era work of Dorothea Lange. Robert Mapplethorpe and Man Ray are not included.