Private Collections Lead Christie’s New York Books and Manuscripts Sales

. November 22, 2009

On December 4 and December 9, Christie’s New York will present three sales offering over 550 lots of important and rare books, manuscripts, and maps from distinguished private collections. The first day of sales begins with part II of The William E. Self Library of important English and American Literature and immediately following is Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana led by one of the most important George Washington letters to ever come to auction and an extremely rare manuscript of Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished novel, ‘The Original of Laura’. On December 9, sales continue with “The Wolfgang A. Herz Library: Important Voyages and Travels”, which will offer over 300 rare and important books on exploration.

“The William E. Self Library Part II: Important English & American Literature”
December 4
Following Christie’s highly successful 2008 auction of The William E. Self Family Collection: The Kenyon Starling Library of Charles Dickens, Christie’s will offer The William E. Self Library Part I: Important English and American Literature on December 4. This superb library offers remarkable 19th and 20th-century literature from notable names such as Poe, Austen, Brontë, Dickens, Melville, and Whitman.

A Hollywood actor turned producer, William E. Self enjoyed a successful career in both film and television, producing memorable shows from the 1960s–70s such as ‘M*A*S*H’, ‘Batman’, and ‘Lost in Space’. Mr. Self’s passion for rare books was ignited in the 1970s when he sought a first edition as a gift for his daughter. He has since assembled one of the most important collections of English and American literature in private hands.

Leading the sale is the extremely rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s first book, ‘Tamerlane’, a collection of poems published in Boston, 1827 (estimate: $500,000-700,000). There are only twelve known copies of the first edition; the present example is one of only two copies remaining in private hands. Additional highlights include ‘The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club’ by Charles Dickens, London, 1845 (estimate: $200,000-300,000) inscribed by Dickens to Hans Christian Andersen in 1847; Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’, Brooklyn, 1855 (estimate: $80,000-120,000), offered with the first issue binding; Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, London, 1816 (estimate: $60,000-80,000), a superb copy with its original binding; Charlotte Brontë’s autograph manuscript of verses in her microscopic print, 1839 (estimate: $50,000-70,000), and her letter to Henry Nussey in which she eloquently declines Mr. Nussey’s marriage proposal; and a first edition of Herman Melville’s The Whale, London, 1851 (estimate: $30,000 – 40,000).

Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana
December 4
On December 4, Christie’s is pleased to offer the sale of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana, featuring over 250 outstanding works from the 16th through the 20th centuries. The sale is led by a revealing and poignant George Washington autograph letter signed to his nephew Bushrod Washington, the most important Washington letter to come to auction in many years, strongly endorsing the new constitution and advocating its ratification (estimate: $1.5-2.5 million). The four-page letter has never been publicly exhibited and has remained in the possession of English descendants of Bushrod Washington for over 100 years.

The sale will also feature an exceedingly rare autograph manuscript of Vladimir Nabokov’s final, unfinished novel, ‘The Original of Laura’, 1975-77 (estimate: $400,000-600,000). Written meticulously on 138 index cards, ‘The Original of Laura’ is about a scholar married to a promiscuous woman with key themes of death and the afterlife, as in so many of Nabokov’s works. No significant manuscript by the author has ever appeared at auction. Because Nabokov’s papers are now located in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library and in the Library of Congress, the sale of ‘The Original of Laura’ constitutes the only likely opportunity to acquire a major work by the author.

Among the stellar literary and Americana highlights is a first edition of ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce, Paris, 1922 (estimate: $200,000-300,000), one of 100 copies signed by Joyce on Dutch handmade paper; a first American edition of ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Samuel Langhorne Clemens better known as Mark Twain, New York, 1885 (estimate: $18,000-24,000), a very fine copy in the scarcer blue cloth; a highly important broadside of the ‘Boston Tea Party’, 1773 (estimate: $25,000-40,000); and the finely engraved facsimile of the Declaration of Independence (estimate: $300,000-500,000). This was created in 1823 by W.I. Stone for the Department of State by the order of John Quincy Adams and it remains the only facsimile officially authorized by Congress.

The Wolfgang A. Herz Library: Important Voyages and Travels
December 9
Comprising over 300 lots of important voyages and travels, Christie’s is honored to offer the singleowner sale of The Wolfgang A. Herz Library on December 9. Formed over the past thirty-five years, this superb collection bears the hallmarks of the greatest book collections: significance and rarity, superior condition, and distinguished provenance. At the same time, it displays a uniquely personal side in Mr. Herz’s selection of books reflecting his own interests as an extensive world traveler.

Wolfgang A. Herz (1929-2007) purchased his first rare book in Vienna in 1971 and soon learned to apply rigorous standards to his fast-growing collection. As an extensive world traveler, the experiences of fellow explorers of earlier times captivated him and became the central focus of his collection.

Leading the collection is a six-volume atlas in Latin by the Dutch cartographers Willem and Jan Blaeu, Amsterdam, 1649-55 (estimate: $350,000-500,000), superbly colored by a contemporary hand, bound in red morocco, and embossed with the arms of James Butler, 1st Duke and 12th Earl of Ormonde; a very rare first edition in English of ‘A Voyage Round the World’, in the years 1803-6 by Ufrey F. Lisiansky (estimate: $30,000-40,000), reporting discoveries on the Northwest Coast of America; George Catlin’s masterpiece ‘Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio: Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America, New York’, 1845 (estimate: $200,000-300,000); and the first edition in English of Peter Martyr’s ‘The Decades of the newe worlde or west India’…London, 1555 (estimate: $180,000-220,000), the first work to contain narratives of English voyages. Other significant travel narratives detail explorations across the globe, from Europe to the Americas, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Arctic.

Category: Auction News

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