Fall 2019 Fine Books & Manuscripts Brings Record Prices

We brought forth a remarkable offering of autographs, art, press and illustrated books, as well as nineteenth and twentieth-century literature, in a Thursday, October 10 sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts.


Herman Melville, two volumes of classic poetry, the first signed, annotated throughout, circa 1860. Sold October 10, 2019 for $106,250, a record for any book signed by Melville.

A rare look at Herman Melville’s personal library topped the sale, with two volumes of Greek & Roman classics once owned by the author bringing $106,250. The offering marked the highest price paid for books inscribed by Melville in works not written by the literary figure.

Marco Tomaschett:

Prices were especially strong for Americana, suggesting that collectors are remaining optimistic about a market that so powerfully encourages us to think about present-day America.

Davy Crockett's signature
Davy Crockett, franking signature on holograph address panel to Carey & Hart, who published his autobiography, circa 1834. Sold for $10,000.

Highlights among Americana included an autograph album with 30 items, including documents and letters, each signed by one of the first 32 Presidents of the United States, which reached $30,000; Davy Crockett was present with an uncommon franking signature addressed to Edward L. Carey and Abraham Hart, the eventual publishers of his autobiography, at $10,000; and a typed letter signed by Theodore Roosevelt to journalist and author Herman Bernstein, which earned $6,750.

Art, Press & Illustrated Books

Christine von der Linn:

“I was thrilled with the international participation and the regional pride in the artists and authors featured. Many artists’ books will be heading back to the states and countries of the creators’ origin, and many into important institutions. It was a deep pleasure to help foster selections from the Sackner Archive into the hands of new collectors and witness strong and record prices for contemporary book creators like Tom Phillips and Timothy Ely.”

Tom Phillips, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, three illustrations from his series, one of a book, one of Dante reading, and one of a bust of Dante, 1983.
Tom Phillips, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, 1983. Sold for $21,250, a record for the artist.

Phillips’s interpretation of The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, 1983, brought a record for the artist at $21,250 and Ely’s unique artist’s book The Ice Papers, 1992, earned a record $6,000. Additional art books of note included William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job, a complete set of 22 engravings, 1826, which sold for $52,500; and Christopher Wool’s Black Book, 17 screenprints, 1989, which brought $20,000.

19th & 20th Century Literature

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, two paperback copies, 1995.
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, two-volume manuscript edition, first signed, 1995. Sold for $8,750, a record for the title.

The nineteenth and twentieth-century literature portion of the sale saw a number of auction records, including Infinite Jest, 1995, by David Foster Wallace ($8,750), The Virginian, 1902, by Owen Wister, ($8,125) and an inscribed copy of James Joyce’s Two Tales of Shem and Shaun, 1932 ($7,250).

Browse the complete list of results from our October 10, 2019 sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts.

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