by Billie Holiday
November’s most expensive sales have us singing the blues. One of last month’s hot ticket items is a first edition copy of Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday, signed by the songstress. The 1956 autobiography is infamous for its abundant inaccuracies. According to biographers, Holiday's co-writer William Dufty, a ghostwriter for celebrities, didn’t fact-check the legendary jazz artist’s tales of sexual abuse, drug addiction and fame and much of the book contradicts documented facts about Holiday’s tumultuous life and career.
Top on the list at $17,500 is a rare replica of American photographer Francesca Woodman's Some Disordered Interior Geometries which at one time was on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Woodman created the original from an Italian geometry book, adding black and white photopgraphs of herself and other female models alongside handwritten text. It was one of the last works she made before her death in 1981.
Two vastly different items come in behind it at $13,000 and $9,500 - a first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous from 1939, and a handwritten letter signed by the King and Queen of Spain in 1474. Also among November's most expensive sales are a collection of Dickens' Christmas Books, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated and signed by Salvador Dali, and a limited edition silkscreen edition of Josepf Alber's Interaction of Color.
2. Alcoholics Anonymous by Bill Wilson - $13,000
A first printing of the first edition from 1939.
3. Letter signed by the King & Queen of Spain, 1474 - $9,500
A letter from King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I informing their royal counsellor that they are sending him their Alcalde, Bernarbe de Bravo Casteño, who will be bearing a certain sum of money which Ponce is to use for charity.
4. Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday - $9,387
A 1956 first edition signed by the legendary singer, who wrote the autobiography with the help of celebrity ghostwriter William Dufty.
5. Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson - $7,725
Published in 1773, the last edition Johnson made.
6. The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens - $7,700
Five volumes including A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man published by Chapman & Hall in the 1840s.
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol, illustrated by Salvador Dali - $7,650
A portfolio including 12 original illustrations. Only 2,500 copies were published and signed by Dali in 1969.
8. An Account of the Foxglove and Some of its Medical Uses by William Withering - $7,251
Published in 1785 by physician William Withering, the book describes the effects of foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, in heart disease. Withering experienced high success rates in treating patients with cardiac failure using infusions and powders derived from the foxglove plant. The book details his case studies. The active ingredient, digitalis, is still used in heart medication.
9. Manuscrito original acerca de Causas de Idolatría by Archbishop Pedro de Villagómez - $6,700
An original manuscript titled The Causes of Idolatry. Archbishop Pedro de Villagómez was Inquisitor of the Royal Commission in Lima and worked to correct the non-Christian beliefs of Indians in Peru. The manuscript reveals the interogations that were carried out with the Indians to prove their adoration of their ancestors.
10. Interaction of Color by Josef Albers - $6,000
American artist Josef Alber's singular explanation of complex color theory principles. This is an original edition printed by Yale University Press in 1963 as a limited silkscreen edition with 150 color plates.