December's most expensive list spans from the 15th to the 20th century. The oldest and most expensive item was a single leaf from the first edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales which sold for $10,529. This fine piece of incunabula is one of the most sought-after works of Middle English writing. It consists of a series of tales ostensibly told by a group of pilgrims, during a story-telling contest on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.
The newest books on the list were by Philip Pullman with the His Dark Materials series, the final volume of which was printed in the year 2000. This signed set of first editions of all three volumes sold for $6,375.
However, the most interesting item included may be a sequence of photos of the notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine who was responsible for multiple bank robberies, jail breaks, burglaries, murders, and kidnappings in France and Canada. Mesrine's crimes read like a Hollywood script: robbing multiple banks in a single day, holding a real estate mogul for a 6 million Franc ransom, attempting to kidnap a judge who had once sentenced him to prison, escaping a crime scene by running out of a surrounded building (past police) yelling "Quick! Mesrine's up there!" as he got away, and of course the multiple jail breaks. Mesrine's eventual demise was also in Hollywood fashion; police were finally able to track him by means of a woman thought to be his mistress. The two of them were heading out of town for a weekend in the country when police boxed their car in at the entrance to an intersection and opened fire, shooting Mesrine 15 times. Throughout his escapades he earned the title of Public Enemy #1 in France.
1. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - $10,529
Single leaf from the 1476-1477 first edition printing by William Caxton; which incidentally was the first press to operate in England.
2. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - $8,500
A First edition copy from 1961 signed by Vonnegut, with a self-caricature; one of the most rare Vonnegut first editions owing to its limited printing of only 2500 copies.
3. Jacques Mesrine: Le Tir (The Shot) by Alain Bizos- $7,401
A sequence of three gelatine silver prints taken of bank robber Jacques Mesrine who was the #1 public enemy in France at the time. This set was limtied to 25 prints, each of which was signed by Bizos in black ink on the back. This photo sequence was taken in January 1979; in November of that same year Mesrine was shot to death by French Police in Paris.
4. Opera Chirurgica: a docto viro, plerisque locis by Ambroise Pare’ - $6,764
Ambroise, who began his career as a military surgeon, has been called the father of modern surgery based on his development of several techniques and theories including his belief that the phantom pain soldiers suffered from occurred in the brain and not the remnant of the limb. Published in the 17th century this second Latin edition of his complete works includes over 315 illustrations.
5. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman - $6,375
First edition of the entire three volume trilogy with each of the volumes being signed by Pullman.
6. La Peste by Albert Camus - $5,992
Original French issue of Camus’ novel The Plague, first published in 1947 this was one of 215 numbered copies printed on vellum paper.
7. Historiae celebriores Veteris [et novi] Testamenti (...) by Luyken, Meloni, and Weigel - $5,234
Published in 1708 in Nuremberg this first edition, two volume set includes various illustrations inspired by the bible’s old and new testaments.
8. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter, and the Prisoner of Azkaban - $5,044
The first three Harry Potter titles, all deluxe editions, each signed by Rowling.
9= Autographed Letter by Mark Twain - $5,000
A two page letter written and inscribed by Mark Twain to Henry Chandler Bowen who was the editor of the New York Independent; in the letter Twain asks Bowen for assistance in locating a poem by Caroline Mason that had been previously published in the paper.
9= Fable by John Baldessari - $5,000
The first and only edition of Baldessari’s most uncommon artist book, published in 1977 by Anatol A V Und Filmproduktion. This book folds out accordion style in four directions and is housed in a simple titled sleeve.