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FineBooks & Collections March/April 2008


In 2004, the working manuscript for Alcoholics Anonymous, widely seen as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century, sold for $1.6 million at auction (good for second place on the Fine Books 50 that year). Three years later, the manuscript popped back up at Sotheby's. William H. Schaberg, an AA expert who helped Sotheby's catalog the manuscript, said he expected it to go for “somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million.” Enter Ken ... avid AA collectors from Alabama. Willing to pay up to $2.4 million, they sent their daughter Amelia Sorensen, age 28, to Sotheby's as their proxy. An auction novice, she sat alone in the back of the saleroom and held her cell phone open so her parents could hear the proceedings. Sorensen recalls being shocked when the auctioneer started calling out numbers and nobody bid. As the price dropped, she feared it would fall below the reserve and be pulled from the sale. She raised her paddle at $850,000. Her father recalled the event: “I heard ‘850 in the back' and knew it was her. Something came over me, and I knew we got it. I went numb I was so thrilled.” The Roberts have no idea why there were no other bidders that day and surmise that the seller regrets “not having sat on the document another ten years.” Schaberg agrees that the Roberts got “a pretty good deal” and chalked it up to “the unpredictability of auctions.” —EFB

Source: http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/0602/topten-1.phtml 


FineBooks & Collections plans to publish the top 50 highest prices paid last year for books, maps, and autographs at auction in their March/April issue. 

Top 10 Auctions of 2007

We're busy working on our annual round-up of the highest prices paid last year for books, maps, and autographs at auction. Our full list--our Fine Books 50--will be publishing in our March/April issue. Here's a sneak peak at the top 10:

#10. $881,000
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. De architectura. Rome: ca. 1487.
The first printed edition of Vitruvius' Ten Books on Architecture.

#9. $917,000
Pierre de Beauvais (translator). Bestiary. Northeastern France, ca. 1280–1290
An illuminated manuscript book on natural history, documenting all known birds and animals. 

#8. $992,000
Bill Wilson. Alcoholics Anonymous. ca. 1938
The working manuscript for the first edition.

#7. $1.1 million
Edward S. Curtis. The North American Indian. 1907–1926
Thirty-two volumes of the forty-book set of photogravures documenting nearly every tribe of Native Americans.

#6. $1.3 million
Christopher Saxton. An Atlas of England and Wales. London, 1579–1590
The first atlas of the British Isles.

#5. $1.9 million
Koran. 10th century
A nearly complete manuscript Koran dating from more than 1,000 years ago.

#4. $2.3 million
Koran. 1203 a.d.
A 560-page manuscript Koran sighed by its scribe and dated June 6, 1203 (depicted above).

#3. $3.5 million
Life of Christ and the Virgin. North England, ca. 1190 a.d. and ca. 1480
An illuminated manuscript assembled about 1479 from 12th-century and 15th-century manuscripts. With more than 100 full-page, hand-painted illustrations.

#2. $4 million
J. K. Rowling. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. 2007
One of seven copies of this handmade book related to the Harry Potter stories. Sold to raise money for charity and purchased by Amazon.com.

#1. $21 million
The Magna Carta. Dated 1297.
The only copy in private hands of this foundation document of Anglo-American law and freedom. Sold by H. Ross Perot. Bought by a private equity fund.

"The Top 10 Auctions of 2007"
FineBooks & Collections 21 Jan. 2008.