One of the stand-out items from a Chicago sale of close on 700 lots is represented by the famous engraved plate illustrated here. One of 38, most of which are folding, it was to be found in a copy of “the most influential work in the history of microscopy”.
Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, or Some Psychological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses was first published in 1655, but bearing the later date of 1667 on the the title-page, this was a second issue copy in what was described as a sympathetically restored contemporary binding of sprinkled calf.
It sold well at $29,000 (£21,530) in the November 9-10 sale held by Hindman (25/20/12% buyer’s premium), but copies of the first edition have made as much as $85,000 – paid in 1998 at Christie’s New York for a copy in the splendid Haskell F Norman library that bore a presentation inscription from Hooke.
More than doubling the high estimate, a copy of The Federalist, a famous collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay issued in 1788, was the top lot of the auction.
Its contemporary binding now somewhat worn and showing its age, this collective volume contained the 85 essays in defence of the newly drafted Constitution that had been first published anonymously under the pseudonym ‘Publius’ in various New York newspapers. It sold at $140,000 (£103,935).
Dating from the following year, a copy of the Journal of the First Session of the Senate of the United States of America…, that newly formed institution’s very first official publication, was one originally owned (and signed) by Peter van Gaasbeck. A merchant who had served in the Ulster County militia during the Revolutionary War, he was later elected to the US House of Representatives.
Sold at $7500 (£5570) was a 1914, first American edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear. Published by George H Duran of New York, it preceded the first UK edition by more than three months. The jacket had a few faults, but it is rarely found.
The only copy to have made more, it seems, was a signed one that made $15,000 at Sotheby’s New York some 30 years ago.