Jane Austen Leads Fine Books & Manuscripts at Swann

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Americana captivates buyers with autographs by Washington, Hamilton & Hancock delivering top prices

Featuring Major Works by Jane Austen & Charles Dickens, Autographs & Manuscript Items from John Hancock, Igor Stravinsky & more
Featuring Major Works by Jane Austen & Charles Dickens, Autographs & Manuscript Items from John Hancock, Igor Stravinsky & more

FINE BOOKS & MANUSCRIPTS

Sale 2551; November 17, 2020

Sale total: $675,481

Estimates for sale as a whole: $433,900–$639,200

We offered 299 lots; 270 sold (90% sell-through rate by lot)

All prices include Buyer’s Premium.

New York—Swann GalleriesTuesday, November 17 sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts saw great success across categories with a 90% sell-through rate by lot, and closed above the total high-estimate at $675,481. 

“Literature tipped over to an eye-opening 95% of all lots sold. Steadfast buyer confidence, a constant throughout the entire sale, drove high prices via a multitude of bidding platforms,” remarked John Larson, the house’s specialist for literature and art books. Enthusiasm for Jane Austen proved to be enduring as 100% of the 12 works by the author on offer found buyers. The success of the editions comes after the house offered a complete run of first editions of Austen’s novels in rare period binding earlier in the year. Highlights from this sale’s selection included first editions of Pride and Prejudice, 1813 ($75,000), Sense and Sensibility, 1811 ($57,500), Mansfield Park, 1814 ($16,250), Emma, 1816 ($15,000), and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, 1818 ($10,625). 

Additional nineteenth-century literature of note included an exceptional association copy of Charles Dickens’ American Notes for General Circulation, 1842. The first edition presentation copy from Dickens’ first tour in the United States included an inscription to Richard Henry Dana, Jr., the author of the memoir Two Years Before the Mast, and sold for $35,000. John Keats’ Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, 1820 ($9,375), and an inscribed presentation copy of Oscar Wilde’s Poems, 1882 ($6,250), also featured. Twentieth-century literature saw success with a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960, by Harper Lee with an inscribed leaf laid into the edition ($6,750); and a first edition of the most influential economic work of the twentieth century John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936 ($7,000).

Featuring Major Works by Jane Austen & Charles Dickens, Autographs & Manuscript Items from John Hancock, Igor Stravinsky & more
Featuring Major Works by Jane Austen & Charles Dickens, Autographs & Manuscript Items from John Hancock, Igor Stravinsky & more

Of the autographs offering specialist Marco Tomaschett noted, “signed books performed surprisingly well: an Albert Schweitzer inscribed book realized three times the high estimate at $2,250; two uncommon books signed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry both exceeded their high estimates at $3,250 and $1,820, respectively; and most surprising was an uncommon pamphlet signed and inscribed by Ezra Pound which realized six times the high estimate at $7,500!”

Americana also proved to be popular among autograph buyers. Highlights included partly-printed documents, signed by George Washington as President and counter-signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, granting permission to a ship in 1894 in three languages ($22,500); Abraham Lincoln as President with the 1863 issue ordering New York to furnish 2,050 troops under the Enrollment Act of March 3, 1863 ($18,750); and John Hancock as President of the Continental Congress issuing an uncommon privateer commission during the Revolutionary War ($9,375); as well as an autograph letter signed by Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury helping the Bank of the United States to quell the panic of 1792 ($11,875). 

Illustrated works included a signed deluxe limited edition of Alexander Calder’s Calder’s Circus, New York, 1964 ($6,240); a first edition of Aubrey Beardsley’s The Lysistrata of Aristophanes, London 1896 ($5,000); Maurice Utrillo’s La Rue Norvins à Montmartre, Paris, 1952, published for the 25th Anniversary of the Societe Francaise d’Assurance pour Favoriser le Credit ($3,120); Auguste H. Thomas’s Formes et Couleurs, a 1921 album of 20 brilliantly colored plates ($1,235); and a limited edition copy of Omar Khavyám’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: A Personal Selection from the Five Editions of Edward FitzGerald, London, 1980, printed by the Curwen Press and signed by the editor ($1,062).

The house is currently accepting quality consignments for the spring 2021 season. For the house’s most up-to-date auction schedule please visit swanngalleries.com.

Key:  * = Record; C =. Collector; D = Dealer

Additional highlights can be found here.

Captions:

Lot 136: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: A Novel, three volumes, first edition, London, 1813. Sold for $75,000.

Lot 141: Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, three volumes, first edition, London, 1811. Sold for $57,500.

Lot 131: Jane Austen, Emma: A Novel, three volumes, first edition, London, 1816. Sold for $15,000.

Lot 65: George Washington, partly-printed document signed, as President, counter signed by Thomas Jefferson, Circa 1794. Sold for $22,500.

Specialist, Autographs: Marco Tomaschett • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 12

Specialist, Literature & Art Books: John D. Larson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 61

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social media: @swanngalleries  

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ILLUSTRATED CATALOGUE, ADDL. IMAGES & COMPLETE PRICES REALIZED ON REQUEST

Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit swanngalleries.com for more information.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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