Something for Every Collection
With three wide-ranging sales in a month, Bonhams will offer lots for every type of collector. By Peggy Carouthers Peggy Carouthers is the custom content manager at Journalistic, Inc. She lives in California.
This March, the Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts department will hold four sales, featuring items ranging from science and medicine to literature and art. The first sale occurs on March 11 in New York and is comprised of around 400 lots from the Medical and Scientific Library of W. Bruce Fye. After the live sale is complete, an additional 400 lots will be sold in an online sale from March 12-21. Items up for auction will span from the beginning of medical studies to the present, including a section on cardiology with books and manuscripts ranging from Harvey to modern day pioneers of cardio-vascular surgery and heart care.
Most notable is the sale, of the first edition of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, by Andreas Vesalius published in 1543 (estimated at $300,000-500,000).
“Vesalius was a surgeon at the University in Padua, where he dissected corpses” said Ian Ehling, director of the fine books and manuscripts department at Bonhams. “This book is hugely important and changed the way we looked at the human body.” This copy is particularly interesting for collectors, however, because “it is an association copy from the library of Achilles Pirmin Gasser, who has inscribed this copy, he was a doctor from Augsburg and a friend of Vesalius.”
The third sale features a large collection of Americana from the collection of Eric C. Caren and will take place online from March 6-14. It includes a variety of Items, from the highest ranking John Hancock commission procurable, that of Major General Benjamin Lincoln, to the first article to mention Babe Ruth, in a Baltimore paper calling him a “St. Mary’s schoolboy.” Additionally, the sale will offer a letter on the death of Joseph Smith, with an account of the Prophet’s final words (1844, estimated at $10,000-15,000).
The most interesting lot in the Caren sale is a typewritten letter signed by Albert Einstein about his relationship with God (1945, estimated $100-200,000).
“It’s a kind of culmination,” Ehling said. “It’s exactly what you’d want Einstein to think and write about, and it’s very beautiful.”
The fourth sale, Extraordinary Books and Manuscripts, will be held live on March 12. Perhaps the most exciting item is a first edition in a first issue binding of Leaves of Grass (1855, estimated $200,000-300,000). Unlike other first editions, however Whitman referred to this one as his working copy, signing it in block letters in a presentation to friend, artist, and book collector, William James Linton. It was then sold to renowned collector, Frederick W. Skiff.
“This year marks Whitman’s two-hundredth birthday, so I expect a lot of press and interest in his works this year,” Ehling said. “He produced world-class poetry that was quintessentially American, and Leaves of Grass has been called the ‘second Declaration of Independence’ by critics. This is an important copy with an incredible provenance.”
This sale will also include other unique items, such as a collection of letters and postcards written by Brassai, the famous 20th century photographer and sent home to his family in Romania between 1947 and 1978 (estimated $40,000-60,000).
With three strong, diverse sales, the Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts department promises a strong showing. Covering an array of topics and centuries of historical insights, these sales promise something for every collection.