ONE notable item from the Bonhams & Butterfields sale of March 23 was a rare copy of Jacques Gautier d’Agoty’s colour printed Anatomie de la Tête of 1748 that made $19,000 (£10,220) – but not the top price lot, a Gershwin sketchbook that made $100,000, or indeed several other interesting items.
Sold for $9500 (£5110) was an early 18th century manuscript version of the ‘Chronicle of the Princes’, a fair copy of the supposed “lost” transcription by the poet and antiquary Iaco ab Dewi [James Davies] of Pryd y Twysogion Gwaith Caradoc or Lancarvon, the Chronicle of the Welsh Princes of Caradoc of Lancarvan. One of the principal sources for Welsh history from the 7th to the 13th centuries, the earliest versions of the chronicle date to the 14th century and successive versions have been added and altered the story.
To quote the California catalogue: “...as an imaginative and narrative history of Wales during the early period of the Saxon conquest, extant manuscripts of the Chronicle are significant not so much for their fidelity to earlier exemplars, as for their ability to capture the national aspirations of the chroniclers in their accounts of how the nation was shaped after the Saxon invasion”. Dated 1716-17, this manuscript of Iaco ab Dewi’s lost transcription is likely, said the catalogue, “to have been composed by a local clergyman in the Camarthian region”.
A lot of 21 sets of playing cards spanning four centuries, the earliest dated 1675, made $13,000 (£6990).
Sold for $7500 (£4030) in San Francisco was one of 260 signed copies of the first, limited edition appearance (in French) of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, as published in New York in 1943 by Reynal & Hitchcock. An English language edition was published at the same time, and at Sotheby’s New York on April 13, one of 500 copies of that version, again signed to the limitation page, brought a bid of $12,000 (£6450) as part of the $5.22m (£2.8m) sale of the Maurice Neville collection of 20th century literature.
Sold for $7000 by Bonhams & Butterfields was a copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye of 1951, the jacket showing some slight wear and with a few tiny chips to the spine ends, as well as a little toning, again mostly confined to the spine. A review copy, it still had the press release tucked inside.
The copy of Bertrand Russell & Alfred North Whitehead’s three vol. Principia Mathematica of 1910 seen in San Francisco was an ex- Chelsea Public Library set with their bookplates to the pastedowns and a few library stamps here and there, but while the spines seemed to show evidence of the removal of those ugly painted white Dewey decimal classification numbers that have disfigured many a fine book, the cloth bindings were otherwise fairly well preserved and the set sold for a low estimate $10,000 (£5375).
Sold for $100,000 (£53,760) was a working sketchbook used by George Gershwin in the years 1929-31 that includes early draughts of such songs as Embraceable You and But Not For Me. The bulk of Gershwin’s manuscripts are already housed in the Library of Congress, holdings that incorporate material from Ira Gershwin’s estate and a cache of 80 similar composition books found in an old Warner Bros. warehouse in Seacaucus, New Jersey, in 1982. This sketchbook was discovered some decades ago in northern California and represents the largest collection of Gershwin compositions to come onto the market in recent years.
Hollywood memorabilia included Marilyn Monroe’s first contract with Twentieth Century Fox, a standard employment contract or option agreement that, following a screen test, she signed in July 1946 under her own name, Norma Jean Dougherty.
Although already married, Norma Jean was still legally under age and the contract, which sold for $22,500 (£12,095), is countersigned as a guardian by Grace McKee, the woman who raised Norma after her own mother was declared incompetent.
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