Auctions in December
Sloan- Lot 49, Bird’s-Eye View of New York in 1848
By Bruce McKinney
Who said fireworks are reserved for the fourth of July. In France the day for fireworks is July 14th. In China it's the Lunar New Year. At auction it's whenever serious consignors take a deep breath and quote Gary Gilmore, "let's do it." Then it's a race to organize, collate, photograph and describe, publish, post and circulate all with the goal of attracting sufficient bidding interest. In the hands of gifted men and women the process can be magic. What with market uncertainty rampant commitments to sell this year have been down but bucking the trend are a group of sales with very good material reaching the rooms this month. They will provide a test of a market that has been seeking a new direction since summer. In these sales the line between real objects and objects of desire blurs to indistinguishable.
Books, manuscripts and ephemera at auction have been busy this fall [60 sales in November, 45 this month] but consignors reluctant to send their best material into the rooms. Since August the market has been improving and the consequences three important auctions to be sold in December that may signal the year ahead: The De Orbe Novo Collection of very Early European Americana on the 3rd, the William A. Herz Library of Important Voyages and Travels at Christies on the 9th, and Dorothy Sloan's Auction Twenty-Two featuring high spots of Texas, the West, Borderlands & Mexico on December 11-12. If these sales do well there is certain to be renewed confidence. The market is poised, many hopeful. Two thousand and eight has been a difficult year.
The de Orbe Novo Collection at Bloomsbury in New York on the 3rd and has been discussed elsewhere in AE Monthly. The focus of this article is the Herz and Sloan sales. Both should draw wide attention. The Sloan sale extends the definition of presentation to encompass meticulous detail, elaborated description and extensive photography. Auction houses, for a decade have been inching into ever more elaborate online presentations while maintaining strong catalogue presences. For Sale 22 Ms. Sloan reverses the approach. While maintaining the printed catalogue at her always high standard she provides a further elaboration online - an extensive photographic presentation that, if the sale is successful, will be quickly emulated. For buyers the online presentations can be downloaded into purchase records to become the rock solid compliment to book ownership - spotless, easily transported and transferred descriptive record. The sale itself is appealing and will be discussed later in this article, the methodology a step into the future.
The Herz sale at Christie's is a throwback to collections of two generations ago when collecting was broad and intense. In the hands of Christie's, who set new standards for book auction performance with the Frank Streeter sale in 2007, they wave their descriptive wands over a collection that will have appeal to all elements of the travel and voyages collecting community. The material is diverse and extensive. Wolfgang A. Herz was an inveterate collector for whom books were a stage he lived through from 1971 into the mid 1980s. He later devoted himself to works on paper, drawings and prints as well as paintings.
Auctions in December
Christies Lot 6. Blaeu: Theatrum orbis... $300,000 - $450,000
I asked Tom Lecky, who is managing the sale, to provide a list of items to highlight. These are some of them.
Lot 6. BLAEU, Willem and Johan BLAEU. Theatrum orbis terrarium sive Atlas Novus. 1649-1655, Amsterdam.
Six volumes containing 404 of 406 maps issued. A very fine deluxe set with the hand colored maps and engraved titles. Estimated $300,000 to $450,000
Lot 34. PTOLEMY (Claudius Ptolemaeus). Geographiae opus novissima traductione e Grecorum archetypis castigatissime pressum. 1513 Strassburg
THE FIRST MODERN ATLAS, ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT EDITIONS OF PTOLEMY, CONTAINING THE FIRST MAP EXCLUSIVELY DEVOTED TO AMERICA, AND MANY NEW REGIONAL MAPS THE FIRST STRASSBURG EDITION OF PTOLEMY'S 'GEOGRAPHIA' -- THE FIRST "MODERN" ATLAS. This edition is one of the most important of all the Ptolemy editions with the inclusion of 20 modern maps in the supplement. Estimated $200,000 to $300,000
Lot 200. CATLIN, George. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. 1845 New York.
FIRST AMERICAN EDITION, FIRST ISSUE. THE PLATES VERY FINE AND FRESH. A superb copy of the much scarcer American edition of Catlin's portfolio: "The coloring of the Ackerman issues is generally superb, not as bright as the almost gaudy Bohn card issues, and many have held that the American color is the best of any of the Catlin issues" (Reese). Estimated $200,000 to $300,000
Lot 222. JEFFERYS, Thomas (d. 1771). The American Atlas: Or A Geographical Description of the Whole Continent of America. 1775, New York
"ONE OF THE MOST AUTHORITATIVE AND COMPREHENSIVE ATLASES OF AMERICA..." (Walter Ristow) FIRST EDITION. Most maps are dated 1775, with some dated 1774. A very important atlas with large maps of 11 of the 13 colonies and of French Canada, of the Revolutionary War era. Estimated $60,000 to $80,000
Lot 243. POPPLE, Henry (d. 1743). A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements Adjacent Therto 1733 [but 1739-41], London
A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements Adjacent Therto. London: Sold by S. Harding and W.H. Toms. Estimated $90,000 to $120,000
Auctions in December
Christies Lot 51: Microcosm of London. Est. $5,000-$7,000
I asked Dorothy Sloan for some suggested items to illustrate Sale No. 22 and she provided these:
Lot 75. [BRANDS & BRAND BOOKS]. GUADALUPE AND SAN ANTONIO RIVERS STOCK ASSOCIATION. Cattle Rustling in South Texas. Rare Broadside 1882, [Cuero] Estimated $7,500 to $15,000
Lot 133. Texas Secedes from the Union [a broadside] [CIVIL WAR]. TEXAS. SECESSION CONVENTION. (First Session, January 28-February 4, 1861). An Ordinance | to dissolve the Union between the State of Texas and the other | States, united under the compact styled "The Constitution of | the United States of America." Texas' Second Declaration of Independence. Estimated $15,000 to $30,000.
Lot 208. [GLOBE]. LORING, Josiah. A Very Handsome Early American Terrestrial Globe. Texas Now Shown as Part of the United States 1846, Boston Estimated $15,000 to $20,000
Lot 356. [MAP]. ROBINSON, John H[amilton]. ROBINSON, John H. A Map of Mexico.... An excessively rare map by "a mapmaker of imperialistic intent" 1819, Philadelphia. Estimated $200,000 to $300,000.
Lot 426. MOORE, Francis, Jr. Map and Description of Texas.... 1840, New York A high-spot Texana, Moore's Rare and important Emigrant Guide to Texas. Includes the first published view of the Alamo and very early engravings of Texas scenes based on eye-witness drawings. Estimated $200,000 to $300,000.
These brief descriptions do not do justice to the breadth or depth of description in either catalogue. They have both been executed with the utmost attention to detail.
If you are a Texas or southwest collector you will find the Sloan presentation great reading. If your interests run toward travels the Herz collection will be your first priority.
In the downturn serious material is coming out. It signals the gathering belief that the market is recovering. No doubt, the auction houses promised consignors a spectacular effort and its apparent they kept their word: all this just to have a place in the starting gate. In a few weeks we'll know the outcome.
The Herz Sale at Christies on December 9th.
The Dorothy Sloan Sale on December 11and 12.