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Benjamin Truesdale
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Published: 1 October 2017

Books, Maps & Manuscripts Auction Results

Freeman’s October 28 Books, Maps and Manuscripts auction boasted an impressive variety of lots appealing to a broad range of collectors. The auction, comprised of 285 lots, attracted international interest and welcomed a number of new registrants and buyers, earning a strong sell-through rate. Affording bidders the opportunity to acquire works at various price points and across collecting subgenres, the sale elicited strong competition in the saleroom, on the telephone, online and through Freeman's new auction bidding platform, Freeman's Live.  

The sale's top lot was a copy of what is often considered the first American-made atlas of the United States (Lot 121), which after strong bidding, ultimately sold for $212,500. Charts of the Coast of America from Cape Breton to the Entrance of the Gulph of Mexico, published and sold by Matthew Clark in 1790, was originally intended to be a set of working charts. Consequently the maps rarely survived use at sea, making this compilation exceedingly rare. The lot was one of only a few extant bound sets of Clark’s charts. While individual sheets are rare and seldom appear at auction, most complete copies of the atlas are only found in university archives or private libraries.

Leading the modern literature section of the sale was a first edition, first issue copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit: or There and Back Again, published in London in 1937 by George Allen & Unwin (Lot 244). With its first state dust jacket containing the notable misprint “Dodgeson” for "Dodgson” and seven full-page illustrations and map endpapers, this piece generated excitement among bidders and ultimately exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $20,000-30,000 to sell for $43,750.

The autograph section of the sale also performed well, with many signed letters exceeding their estimates. Most remarkable in this group was a letter from Albert Einstein (Lot 144), dated 1923, that provided the following bit of advice for young people: “To save time is a wonderful quest if a person is able to make something wonderful out of it. Otherwise it's better to sit back and live comfortably and to be sure not to pack it with too many things to do as you would overpack your briefcase.” 

This letter soared past its estimate of $1,500-2,500 ultimately achieving $7,150. Other notable results include a manuscript leaf from a book by Louise May Alcott (Lot 207) that sold for $2,375; a letter from Harry Houdini (Lot 165) offering guidance to young students that sold for $3,250; and a letter from Marie Curie that sold for $2,210.

Books rarely seen at auction were also a considerable source of interest to collectors:  Amadeo Preziosi’s Le Caire moeurs et cotumes: Encyclopedie des arts decoratifs de l'Orient sold for 10 times its estimate, achieving $6,250; while Philadelphian lithographer Augustus Kollner’s two volumes of children’s books (Lot 80), published in the 1850s, sold for an impressive $3,375.

Freeman's dedicated team of specialists in the Books & Manuscripts Department, led by Department Head Ben Truesdale, has established an international reputation for their notable sales and thorough cataloguing. The Department is always seeking consignments of interesting and rare books, manuscripts and maps for inclusion in forthcoming sales.

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