Rare Books

Most expensive sales from April to June 2022

Welcome to AbeBooks' most expensive sales of April, May and June 2022. Our list of rare and collectible items sold during this period includes books about architecture, stock trading, cocktails and the Sistine Chapel. We also sold a book about book burning with a fire-resistant binding.

I Quattro Libri dell Architettura by Andrea Palladio - $57,750

uattro libri dell'architettura
Palladio's architectural style was classical in nature. This image shows a later edition of the item that was sold.

A first edition from 1570 of this influential book about architecture. Andrea di Pietro was nicknamed Palladio and worked in the Venice region of Italy where his buildings are famous for their classical style. This volume is divided into four sections - basic architectural tasks such as walls and rooms, private houses, public buildings such as bridges and squares and, town planning and temples. Palladio’s style became known as Palladianism, and it was copied across Europe until the 18th century.

How to Trade in Stocks by Jesse Livermore - $40,000

How to Trade in Stocks
Jesse Livermore invented a successful trading formula based on trends

A 1940 first edition, signed by the author, published by Duell, Sloan & Pearce. Livermore remains one of the great stock traders, worth millions at his peak in the 1920s, and only ever trading with his own money. How to Trade in Stocks revealed his formula around monitoring trends, which is still used today. Edwin Lefèvre wrote a book about Livermore in 1923, called Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, which provides further insight into this remarkable man.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - $22,500

Fahrenheit 451
Bound in asbestos, this edition of Fahrenheit 451 is fire-resistant.

This is the famous asbestos-bound edition of Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about the power of books. #83 of 200 signed and numbered copies. A regular signed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 sold for $12,000 via AbeBooks earlier in the year.

Le Magnétisme Animal Démontré Selon Les Loix & La Nature Avec Les Figures by Franz-Anton Mesmer - $22,080

The title translates as ‘Animal magnetism demonstrated according to laws and nature with figures.’ An extremely rare French book from 1785 on the theory of animal magnetism, where an invisible natural force is believed to bind together all living things from humans to animals and plants. The term ‘to be mesmerized’ originates from the author’s name.

The Sistine Chapel by Vatican Museums - $22,000

The Sistine Chapel art book
The Sistine Chapel art book features three volumes housed in a handmade box
Callaway Arts & Entertainment

A five-year collaboration between the Vatican and two publishers resulted in this luxury three-volume elephant folio-sized art book that includes 1:1 scale images of the masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other Renaissance artists. This limited edition was created after two photographers took more than 270,000 images over 65 consecutive nights while the Sistine Chapel was closed to visitors - a photographic assignment of biblical proportions. A 33-foot-tall scaffold – which was constructed and taken apart each night - helped the photographers get up close and personal with the famous art decorating the walls and ceiling. Our review provides more information.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali - $21,375

Alice in Wonderland by Dali
Three of Salvador Dali's surreal illustrations for Alice in Wonderland

The 1969 Maecenas Press/Random House edition of Alice in Wonderland with 12 surreal woodcut illustrations by Salvador Dali, each one signed. One of the great illustrated books of the second half of the 20th century and a landmark in surrealism. Princeton Press reprinted Dali's version in 2015.

The Bar-Tenders' Guide by Jerry Thomas - $20,000

Bar tenders guide
Jerry Thomas helped to popularize cocktails

A rare 1862 first edition of the first American cocktail mixing recipe book. Thomas (1830-1885) was a flamboyant bartender who helped to popularize cocktails and the bartending profession in general with his showmanship and elaborate mixing skills. It is difficult to find pristine copies of this book for obvious reasons.

Une Saison en Enfer by Arthur Rimbaud - $18,865

Nineteen-year-old Arthur Rimbaud wrote this poem (A Season in Hell) in prose then self-published it in October 1873. Some copies were given to friends but the printer kept the majority after the Rimbaud failed to pay the bill. These copies were held in storage until being rediscovered in 1901.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - $15,000

Great Expectations
Only 1,000 first editions copies of Great Expectations were printed.

A true first edition, first issue of Great Expectations, rebound in quarter leather and marbled paper. One of only 1,000 copies published by Chapman and Hall in 1861. Great Expectations was Dickens’ 13th novel. Narrated in the first person by the orphan Pip, this novel was originally published as a serial between December 1860 and August 1861.

Eleanor Roosevelt letter - $15,000

A typed letter on White House stationery, signed, to "Harry,” and dated February 19, 1944. Eleanor’s husband Franklin D. Roosevelt was US president at the time.

Eleanor Roosevelt letter
Eleanor Roosevelt letter from 1944

The letter addresses civil rights. Part of the text includes: “Something has to happen to people's souls before they are going to give the rights of citizenship to all the people of our country, regardless of color or creed. That does not mean you have to ask them to dinner. It only means giving them the rights that go with citizenship. The right to an equal opportunity for an education. The right to equal justice before the law. The right to obtain a job according to their ability to hold it. The right to participate in the government through the ballot.”

Eleanor Roosevelt was a staunch advocate for equal rights, from women to international human rights and Black Americans.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - $13,750

The Catcher in the Rye
The front and rear views of The Catcher in the Rye first edition

A first edition, first printing of The Catcher in the Rye printed by Little, Brown and Company in 1951 in the all-important first issue dust jacket. Salinger’s novel gave us the first moody American teenager in Holden Caulfield and his story is still being critiqued more than 70 years later.

The Earthly Paradise by William Morris - $13,500

The Earthly Paradise
The Earthly Paradise is famous for its ornamental decorations and woodcut initials.

Printed in eight volumes between 1896 and 1897 by the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith, London. This book is one of 225 copies decorated with 64 beautiful full-page ornamental borders and countless woodcut initials. The Earthly Paradise an epic poem recounting various myths and legends from Greece and Scandinavia.

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce - $12,645

A signed limited edition of Joyce’s final work. #177 of 425 numbered copies signed by the author. Published in 1939, the novel is written in dense idiosyncratic language with traditional narrative rules mostly ignored.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - $12,500

An 1850 first edition of this influential historical novel. Set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1642 and 1649, the book tells the story of Hester Prynne, who becomes pregnant while unmarried and then struggles to create a life for herself. Another landmark in American literature.

Doctor Sax by Jack Kerouac - $12,200

Published by Grove Press in 1959, this is one of 26 lettered copies signed by the author. The novel was written in 1952 while Kerouac was staying with William S. Burroughs in Mexico City. The text is written in Kerouac’s so-called “spontaneous prose” and involves a fantasy-like dream set in Lowell, Massachusetts, the author’s childhood home-town.

Paradis Perdu illustrated by Salvador Dali - $12,000

This is Milton’s Paradise Lost translated into French by Pierre Messian and published by Les Bibiliophiles de l'Automobile-club de France in 1974. Paradis Perdu contains 10 loose illustrations by Dali, each signed and numbered by the artist. #96 of 150 copies.

The Federalist by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay - $10,000

The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 articles written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay under the collective pseudonym of Publius to promote the ratification of the US Constitution. They were first published in book form, as The Federalist, in 1788. This edition was published in 1802 in two volumes.

The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St. James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House and Frogmore by William Henry Pyne - $9,500

Royal Residences
The History of the Royal Residences was published in 1819 and is famous for its aquatints.

An 1819 first edition in three elephant folio volumes. The History of the Royal Residences was the first book to show illustrations of the state rooms at these royal palaces and houses in any detail. It features 100 hand-colored aquatint plates.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville - $9,500

This is the 1930 Lakeside edition of Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent. It was produced in three volumes with only 1,000 copies printed. A near fine copy in an aluminum slipcase. This book is a high-point in 20th century illustration with stylish Art Deco images.

Earthrise photo from Apollo 8 - $9,300

Apollo 8 photo
The Apollo 8 crew were the first people to see an Earthrise.

NASA negative AS08-14-2383. Signed in felt-tip pen: 'To: Myra and Roy - With best wishes, James Lovell, Apollo 8, 13' and 'Earthrise from Apollo Eight 12/24/68'. The Apollo 8 crew - Frank Borman, Lovell, and William Anders - enjoyed several firsts. They were the first humans to travel beyond the Earth's orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, the first to directly see the far side of the Moon, and the first to see an Earthrise.


More beautiful books

September 14, 2022
Find beautiful decorative books to decorate your home from vintage paperbacks to complete sets, leather-bound volumes and coffee-table books.
6 Min Read
April 04, 2022
Books have always struggled to convey the spectacular beauty of Rome’s Sistine Chapel. Until now. A five-year collaboration between the Vatican and two publishers has resulted in this luxury three-volume art book.
3 Min Read
By Julie Oreskovich
March 23, 2022
The New Naturalist Series is an on-going series of books published by Collins that focuses on natural history. The series, famous for its dust jacket designs, began in 1945 with Butterflies by E.B. Ford and more than 100 titles have been published.
2 Min Read