Pre-Revolutionary Natural History and DNA Highlight Bonhams Fine Books & Manuscripts Auction

Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to present a selection of rare, intricate views of early America through illustrated volumes and art books during its Fine Books & Manuscripts auction on February 13, 2011. The firm will present a book, prominently featuring California backdrops, of 100 hand-colored lithograph plates and accompanying text by famed German-Russian painter and explorer Louis Choris. History comes to life in Choris’ volume, which has more than 100 plates depicting areas of San Francisco, such as the Presidio, the Mission, and the Bay; as well as the Hawaiian Islands; Alaska; the Philippines; Chile; and Easter Island (est. $100,000-$150,000).

Bonham & Butterfields will also offer a second edition of the book The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects and Plants, illustrated with 220 hand-colored plates by English naturalist Mark Catesby (est. $100,000-$150,000). The volume includes some of the first images depicting flora and fauna in natural settings. Catesby’s first edition of the book, completed in 1747, was one of the earliest color plate books on American birds.

The February sale also features modern scientific breakthroughs, such as James Watson and Francis Crick’s collection of two groundbreaking articles on the structure of DNA: Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids and Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid. The articles feature Watson and Crick’s uncovering of the molecular basis of the template needed for genetic reproduction (est. $30,000-$50,000). Both are signed by the scientists.

Also available is a first edition, two-volume copy of Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith’s An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations (est. $40,000-$60,000). The famous text, which was the fruit of Smith’s labor for ten years, is now considered to be the foundation of modern economic theory and is highly regarded for its criticism and grasp of human nature.

Prominent within the children’s literature section is a Dr. Seuss original cover design for You’re Only Old Once! (est. $20,000-$30,000); and signed, original watercolor drawings by Beatrix Potter, used for her nursery rhyme “The Amiable Guinea-Pig” (est. $12,000-$18,000). Please see separate release for more details.

The sale concludes with a large selection of literature and art, emphasizing early poems, letters from French Impressionist painters, and literary figures of the 20th century. Works of note include personal letters from Monet (est. $4,000-$6,000), Pissarro (est. $800-$1,200), and Corot (est. $800-$1,200); Poems by John Donne (est. $25,000-$30,000); a first edition, inscribed copy of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (est. $10,000-$15,000); a rare typed and signed manuscript of an early Sylvia Plath poem Lament (est. $15,000-$20,000); an inscribed copy of Henry Matisse’s Dessins: Themes et Variations (est. $2,500-$3,500); an original of Pablo Picasso’s Dessins with a signed lithograph (est. $2,000-$3,000); and a limited edition, signed collection of lithographs by Georges Braque, Le Tir a l’arc (est. $2,000-$3,000). Please see separate release for more details.

The illustrated auction catalog for the Fine Books & Manuscripts Sale is available online for review and purchase at

Los Angeles Preview: February 4-6, 2011

San Francisco Preview: February 11-12, San Francisco

Auction: February 13, San Francisco, simulcast to Los Angeles

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