Titanic Wreckage and Ephemera Highlight First 2008 Sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts at Bonhams & Butterfield

Within the Fine Books & Manuscripts auction at Bonhams & Butterfields on Sunday, February 17, 2008 are five lots of ephemera related to the infamous British luxury passenger liner RMS Titanic. Crowned jewel of the White Star Liner at the time, the vessel sunk during its maiden voyage in the early hours of April 15, 1912. Nearly 96-years later, the Titanic disaster, mythology and items surrounding the tragic event have continued to fascinate millions.

Among the offerings at Bonhams are wreckage and recovery items, including: a piece of perhaps the most famous of all Titanic’s lifeboats –boat #6; an original Titanic silver print photograph-postcard; an advertisement for Titanic’s return voyage on April 20, 1912; several period press clippings from the New York Herald, Pennsylvania Chronicle and News and the Christian Herald Magazine; and sheet music memorializing the disaster — as well as two copies of a book on the tragedy.

Lifeboat #6 is perhaps the most notable of all the Titanic lifeboats – of which there were far too few. It was the first vessel lowered overboard and it carried the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, who, according to legend, forced her crewman to turn back and search for survivors. In 1986, #6 was offered for sale at an antiques exposition in Atlantic City, New Jersey where it was identified as the last surviving lifeboat from the historic disaster.

To be offered is a piece of molding removed from the top rear side of Titanic lifeboat #6, the wood fragment measures nearly four-inches long. The lot is accompanied by a copy of a ticket to the 1986 Atlantic City antiques show, a framed inscribed card from survivor Edwina MacKenzie, and a clipped newspaper photo of lifeboat #6. The lot is expected to bring $3,000-5,000 on February 17th.

The next Titanic lot to be featured comprises a 2 ¾-inch steel bolt with attached nut. Painted silver, it is accompanied by a period note reading: Bolt from companionway picked up by Cable Str Minia from wreckage of Str Titanic Lost Apl 15, 1912, 1635 perished. Also included in the lot is a three-inch by 1 ½-inch diameter fragment of steel telegraph cable with a partial tag (est. $5/7,000). Both items were recovered by the crew of the Minia, who were laying cable in the Atlantic when recruited to join the rescue/recovery mission. Many surviving fragments from the Titanic were fished out of the water by the Minia crew.

A fine and rare example of an original silver print picture-postcard of Titanic will also be on the block (est. $300/500). Measuring 3 ½ by 5 ½-inches, the image depicts the vessel at Belfast and had been printed in Vienna, postmarked from Breda and mailed to St. Petersburg shortly following the disaster. Five period postcards of Titanic, c. 1912, most 3 ½ by 5 ½ inches, will also be offered in a grouped lot (est. $600/900). All were published post-disaster, two mailed with May 1912 postmarks.

Also featured within the Titanic ephemera will be an additional group lot featuring a rare advertisement from the February 28, 1912 edition of the New York Evening Post for Titanic’s return voyage, slated for April 20, 1912; a special edition of the New York Herald dated April 21, 1912 headlined by “The foundering of the Titanic;” an April 15, 1912 edition of the Allentown, Pennsylvania Chronicle and News, reporting the story of the Titanic striking an iceberg and that the ship was “in danger of sinking;” a copy of the Christian Herald Magazine with coverage of the disaster; sheet music memorializing the disaster; and two copies of The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters (1912). This large group lot is expected to fetch $400 to $600.

The auction will be simulcast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The property will be exhibited in both cities, the auction timed to coincide with the 41st California International Antiquarian Book Fair (ABAA). For local patrons and Book Fair attendees, the sale’s preview hours will be adjusted — opening a day earlier – on Thursday, February 14, and open for extended hours: 9am-5pm on Friday and Saturday.

Additional volumes on offer will include an extremely rare first edition, first printing of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 20th century masterpiece The Great Gatsby (est. $120,000/140,000); a massive archive of papers and photographs relating to Former US President Ronald Reagan (est. $100,000/150,000); one of the most important World War II aviation manuscripts from US pilot Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, Captain of the Enola Gay (est. $100,000/150,000), a rare copy of Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (est. $60,000/80,000) and a signed letter from John F. Kennedy to a leading American socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate Norman Thomas (est. $8,000/12,000).

The illustrated sale catalogs are online for review and purchase at