Rare Books

Most Expensive Sales from April to June 2020

This list features Roland Deschain's epic quest, Tom Sawyer and his fence, a mathematician, a mercenary in the New World, a queen consort of France, 007, Isaac Newton explaining gravity, and a physician. We also give our regards to Broadway.

AbeBooks' top 10 sales (April-June 2020)

The Dark Tower I-X by Stephen King, $21,080

The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Donald M. Grant is a fantasy and science fiction small press, well known for its Stephen King editions. Grant's Dark Tower series is divided into nine "Parts," and three parts (four, five, and seven) contain two volumes (two hardcover books in one slipcase), so there's a total of 12 books. Published between 1982 and 2012, these are first edition first printings, each part is signed by King and the book's illustrator. All share the same number (#199). All are beautifully illustrated with full-page color plates, and have dust jackets and slipcases. The Dark Tower series tells the story of Roland Deschain, Mid-World's last gunslinger, who is traveling across a post-apocalyptic landscape, searching for the Dark Tower. Inspired in equal parts by Robert Browning's poem, 'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,' Lord of the Rings and spaghetti Westerns, many readers think The Dark Tower is King's magnum opus.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, $17,500

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

First edition, first printing from 1876, published by the American Publishing Company, in Hartford, Connecticut. The inner hinge has been repaired. This famous novel flopped at first and is usually overshadowed by its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. However, Tom Sawyer went on to become a bestseller and its fence painting scene is fondly remembered by any reader who has been saddled with a dull chore.

The Whetstone of Witte Is the seconde parte of Arithmetike: containing extraction of rootes: the cossike practise, with the rule of equation: and the woorkes of surde nombers, by Robert Recorde, $14,950

In short, one of the earliest books on algebra and the first book to use the equals sign. This is a first edition from 1557. Bound in 18th century calf on marbled boards, edges speckled, rebacked with raised bands. Eight missing leaves and two missing tables are replaced by facsimiles

An Historical Account of the Expedition against the Ohio Indians, by William Smith, $14,785

An account of Colonel Henry Bouquet's expedition into Ohio where he won the release of hostages and negotiated an end to attacks on British colonists. Bouquet was a Swiss mercenary who rose to prominence working for the British during the French and Indian War, and Pontiac's War. Bouquet died of a fever in 1765, and Smith wrote the book from Bouquet's notes and journals. This is a 1765 first edition, printed in London. This copy belonged to Peter Muhlenberg, an American soldier and politician who fought in the American War of Independence and worked alongside Benjamin Franklin.

A Pictorial Description of Broadway, $14,000

A Pictorial Description of Broadway
A Pictorial Description of Broadway

Published by the Mail & Express Company in 1899. This book features a series of beautiful chromolithographs displaying the main thoroughfare of Broadway "from Steamship Row and Bowling Green to 59th Street". The Mail & Express Company was the publisher of the Evening Mail, a New York daily newspaper. This is an important block-by-block record of what Broadway looked like at the turn of the 20th century.

Heures D'Anne De Bretagne, $11,120

This translates as the Hours of Anne of Brittany. A facsimile edition of one of the most famous and beautiful book of hours ever created, this edition was published by Moleiro in 2012 in a limited edition of 987 copies. The original text is Latin and this edition has English commentary too. A book of hours contains texts, prayers and psalms, and they were commonplace during the Middle Ages. The original edition is in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Anne (1477-1514) was Duchess of Brittany from 1488 until her death, and queen consort of France from 1491 to 1498 and from 1499 to her death. She is the only woman to have been queen consort of France twice. A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. Anne married Charles VIII who died. She then married Charles' cousin, Louis XII, following an agreement to annex Brittany.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen, $10,000

First American edition, one of 1,250 copies printed by Carey & Lea in 1832. Persuasion was the last novel completed by Austen. It was first published in 1817, six months after her death.

A Treatise of the System of the World, by Isaac Newton, $10,000

A Treatise of the System of the World
A Treatise of the System of the World by Isaac Newton

First edition in English of Newton's third part of Principia. This near fine copy, published in 1728, belonged to George Baillie (1664-1738), a Scottish politician and Member of Parliament. Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is simply known as the Principia. It states Newton's laws of motion, including the laws of gravity, and is the basis for classical mathematics.

Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming, $9,999

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

It feels like this 1953 novel appears on every most expensive sales list that we publish. A first edition, first printing in fine condition, published by Jonathan Cape, with a near fine dust jacket. Casino Royale was the first James Bond novel and became an instant bestseller.

Anatomia uteri humani gravidi tabulis illustrate, by William Hunter, $9,750

Anatomia by William Hunter
Anatomia by William Hunter

This translates as The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus Exhibited in Figures. Published by the Baskerville Press, it's the first edition of a pioneering bilingual (Latin and English) anatomical atlas of obstetrics and gynecology published in 1774. It is illustrated with 34 mostly life-sized anatomical plates of pregnant women, which offered a ground-breaking amount of detail for this era. Hunter (1718-1783) was a royal physician and professor of anatomy at the Society of Naval Surgeons.


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