Swann

Swann Auction Galleries in New York are an auction house that have been trading in rare and antiquarian books and works on paper since 1941.

The family-run business moved to new and larger premises in 1999, and now holds over 40 sales every year.


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Swanns go native for $1.2m sale

18 October 2012

Edward S. Curtis’ monumental photographic study of ‘The North American Indian’ was one of the most expensive and ambitious undertakings in the history of book production, comprising 20 illustrated text volumes and 20 folios of larger photographic plates.

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A Border ballad takes Scott to new heights

11 January 2005

An unusual picture, both in terms of its style and quality, was the star of the show at this year’s Fine Paintings sale held by the Scottish auctioneers John Swan (10% buyer’s premium) at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel near St Boswells on December 2.

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Wake Up!, I Want You, und Du

09 September 2004

A POSTER sale held by Swanns of New York on August 4 was strong on recruitment and propaganda posters of WWI and WWII. A condition-A copy of “the best known American poster of all time”, the famous Uncle Sam image of 1917 seen top right, was sold at $9000 (£4950). Based on the well-known British poster featuring Lord Kitchener, it was originally produced by illustrator James Montgomery Flagg as a magazine cover and is in fact a self-portrait of the artist.

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A true treat for Custer buffs...

22 June 2004

AN autograph sale held by Swanns on April 29 included 11 lots from the George Armstrong Custer collection formed by the late Dr. Elizabeth Atwood, a vet and well-known Custer buff. Seen right is a copy print of a larger image by Timothy O’Sullivan, inscribed “Truly yours G.A. Custer”, which sold for $14,000 (£7955).

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Moon rock and an historic toothbrush

17 June 2004

IN the 18th century, it was widely believed that meteorites found on Earth were pieces of the moon that had been blasted into space by volcanic eruption. We now know that almost all meteorites come from the asteroid belt and that it was the pummelling that the moon received in the early years of the formation of our solar system that allowed some chunks of moon rock to escape the moon’s gravitational influence and, periodically, find their way to Earth.

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The Beggarstaffs couldn’t be bothered, but poster lovers see it differently.

16 June 2004

AT a sale of modernist posters held by Swanns on May 10, the New York cataloguers drew attention to the influence on Ludwig Hohlwein of the work of the Beggarstaffs.

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Rembrandt and Corot demonstrate the printed art of self-portraiture

16 June 2004

OVER 600 lots of ‘Old Master through Contemporary Prints’ were offered by Swanns on May 6 and in the former category, Dürer and Rembrandt figured prominently among the higher priced lots.

Witches and witchfinders of Lübeck

10 June 2004

TWO records of witchcraft trials in 17th century Lübeck were among the more successful lots in an April 19 sale held by Swanns of New York.

Scottsboro Boys, Fancies and Abbey Fisher’s pickles

23 March 2004

A PORTRAIT of two of the ‘Scottsboro Boys’, illustrated right, topped this year’s sale of African-Americana at Swann’s when it was knocked down at $36,000 (£19,080). But there was also a bid of $20,000 (£10,600) on a group of 40 letters and telegrams addressed to Dickenson, Hill & Co. and S.R. Fondren, slave dealers of Richmond, Virginia, in the years 1836-62.

New York from the rooftops, with Skyboy adding to the Right Wonder

16 March 2004

TWO views of New York from what were, at the time, the city’s tallest buildings, are illustrated here. Both were part of the February 17 Swann’s sale of ‘100 Fine Photographs’, where ‘The Movement’, another of Frantisek Drtikol’s much admired pigment prints was scheduled to have become the sale’s best seller for the third time in a row, but in this instance failed to live up to expectations of $340,000-60,000.

Ski posters to give your walls a lift

02 February 2004

POSTERS provide instant wall power to any interior, and carefully chosen they can prove a most effective (and cost-effective) device in any decorating scheme. Look out for two interesting poster auctions next month on either side of the Atlantic.

Everyone on Everest, the Danes in West Africa and the Russians in Jerusalem

26 March 2003

Signed by Hillary and other members of the 1953 Everest expedition (though not by Tensing, whose right to be known as the true conqueror of the mountain is still being fervently pressed by his compatriots), a deluxe copy of Alfred Gregory’s The Picture of Everest, illustrated with 42 full-colour reproductions of photographs and here specially bound in vellum, sold at $1200 (£750) in a special Himalayas section of a February 13 travel sale held by Swanns.

Mapping & Moon Gazing

28 February 2003

A Ptolemaic world map from the Nuremburg Chronicle was sold for £12,000 (£7500) as part of a December 12 sale of maps and prints held by Swann, while bid to $6000 (£3750) was the Map to illustrate Prince Maximilien of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America reproduced right.

An unabashedly Copernican treatise

28 November 2002

A PRE-VESALIAN anatomy and a pioneering German surgical treatise are featured in the caption story below, while among the other scientific texts in an October 2 sale of early printed books held by Swanns were two important works by Kepler.

No flight of fancy

07 November 2002

In May 1919 New Yorker Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize for the first non-stop aeroplane flight from New York to Paris. In the ensuing eight years dozens of people managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air, but no one met Orteig’s criteria until eight years later when on May 20-21, 1927 Charles A. Lindbergh made the longest non-stop, heavier-than-air transatlantic flight in his plane, the Spirit of St Louis.

Cameras at Work…

04 September 2002

USA: The 200-lot literature section of a photograph sale held by Swanns on June 6 included a good run of the famous American publication, Camera Work, comprising Nos. 1 and 3-10 of the years 1903-05, plus the Steichen supplement of 1906.

Fly LNER to London – Alexeieff’s moonlit sleeper at $46,000

26 July 2002

USA: A stage designer for the Ballets Russes, advertising artist, painter and book illustrator, Alexander Alexeieff, is probably best known for his animated cartoons, but in two posters that he designed for LNER he produced surreal images that were unlike anything previously seen on a train poster.

Impressions of Rural America

26 July 2002

USA: The works of two American impressionists, Fern Isabel Coppedge (1888-1951) and Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927), both of whom were plein air painters whose works were admired for their fresh and colourful imagery, are featured here, together with a sample of the folksier treatment of rural America by Paul Seifert, a German fruit and vegetable farmer who took to painting as a lucrative sideline.

Court martial that led on to treason

16 January 2002

ONE of only 50 copies of Proceedings of a General Court Martial.... for the Trial of Major General Arnold that came up for sale in a Swanns Americana sale of November 29 was ex-library, bound in later half morocco with assorted stamps and various defects, but this Philadelphia imprint of 1780 is an extremely rare and historically significant item and attracted a lot of interest.

Consulted by Copernicus

22 November 2001

USA: THREE LOTS representing the principal science, medicine and natural history sections of a Swann sale of October 18 are described below, and illustrated right is one a of small group of patents that featured in the New York sale.

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