Most Expensive Sales of January, February & March 2019

Our first most expensive list of 2019 includes sets, signed first editions, nature photography, Roman poetry, exploration, children's literature and birds of a feather.

Top 20 Most Expensive Sales


The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, $40,000

Published in 1905, this is the Presidential Edition, limited to 50 copies. There are 12 volumes, bound in 23. It features engraved portraits, views and maps, photogravures, and facsimile letters. The frontispiece in each volume is an original watercolor of a log cabin.


The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, $25,000

The 1930 first edition published by Knopf in its all-important original dust jacket, which is unrestored. It's difficult to find this first edition in its first issue dust wrapper. This detective story was originally serialized in the Black Mask pulp magazine, starting in September 1929. Much parodied, Sam Spade's story is told completely in the third person.


The Writings of Mark Twain, $25,000

The Autograph Edition complete in 25 volumes. Published from 1899 to 1907 by the American Publishing Company. This is from a limited edition of 512 copies, with 500 being numbered, and 12 lettered copies reserved for the author. This set is letter "B." Lettered copies are rare. Volume I is signed "S. L. Clemens". A short manuscript signed letter is included.


The Novels and Tales of Henry James, $15,922

26 volumes, bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe in red half morocco. Published from 1907 to 1917. James is best known for The Turn of the Screw, The Wings of a Dove and The Portrait of a Lady. Intrigued by the dynamics of society, James' work has influenced numerous writers.


Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail by Ansel Adams, $15,000

1938 first edition signed by Adams. Limited to 500 copies, this being "K" of the 26 rare "lettered" copies that were given away by the photographer. The first major monograph of Adams' work with 50 tipped-in illustrations from photographs by Adams printed in halftone. This ground-breaking photobook was commissioned by Walter Starr to commemorate his son who was killed during a climbing expedition in the American High Sierra. The book was referenced during the US congressional debate over the establishment of Kings Canyon National Park.


The Works of Virgil, $14,515

Published in 1517, the first illustrated edition of Virgil's writing. 2 parts in one volume in a 19th century crushed brown morocco binding. Features 207 woodcuts from the Grüninger workshop. This set was once owned by William O'Brien, an Irish judge. Virgil lived in the century before Christ's birth and is best known for his epic Aeneid poem.


Lost Horizon by James Hilton, $14,000

A signed first edition from 1933. This novel popularized Shangri-La – the fictional utopia in Tibet. Ronald Colman starred in a 1937 movie version of the novel. Hilton also wrote Goodbye, Mr. Chips.


The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, $13,050

A complete set of seven volumes, all UK first editions, first printings with the first issue dust jackets. The first five books of this classic series were published by Geoffrey Bles. The final two were published by Bodley Head. They all contain the marvelous illustrations of Pauline Baynes. The series began with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950, and concluded with The Last Battle in 1956.


A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America by Louis Hennepin, $12,500

Father Louis Hennepin (1626-1704) was a Belgian priest and explorer. This book, which was hugely popular, is from around 1698, and is the very first English edition. It was originally published in French, and offers the first published description of Niagara Falls. Portions of his narrative have been accused of being fabricated.


Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne, $12,500

Published in 1926 and still going strong. This copy is #262 of the large paper first edition copies printed on handmade paper and signed by Milne and the illustrator EH Shepard, and limited to 350 copies.


The Birds of America by John James Audubon, $12,500

The most famous and most beautiful book on birds ever created. This is the 1985 Abbeville facsimile edition published in conjunction with The National Audubon Society. Complete in four double elephant folio volumes. Only 350 copies were created.


Two English Poems by Jorge Luis Borges, $12,000

“The useless dawn finds me in a deserted street corner; I have outlived the night.” is the first line from these poems. This is the handwritten manuscript by the Argentine poet, essayist, and short-story writer.


The Godfather by Mario Puzo, $11,805

A 1969 signed first US edition, published by Putnam. Dust jacket is price clipped. Inscribed to Joe Collins, who was probably the Hollywood agent, and father of Joan and Jackie Collins.


The First Booke of Architecture by Sebastian Serlio, $11,770

Published in 1611. Serlio wrote about fundamentals of geometry and architecture in the 16th century; the first edition was published in Paris in 1545 in Italian and French, then a series of translated editions followed. It was hugely influential on many designers including Palladio and Inigo Jones.


Post Office Reform; its Importance and Practicability by Rowland Hill, $10,000

Privately printed in 1837. Hill (1795-1879) is the father of the modern postal system. He was a teacher and inventor, who campaigned for the reform of the British postal system, based on the uniform penny post.


Complete Set of the Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell, $9,948

All first editions and all signed by the author. Cornwell writes historical novels and his series featuring Richard Sharpe, an English soldier during the Napoleonic Wars, has been immensely popular.


A single illuminated manuscript leaf, $9,500

A vellum leaf from around 1400 with the letter "E" and a bearded apostle, dressed in robes of pink and mauve, and holding a palm in one hand and a book in the other.


Les Travaux et les Jours by Hesiod illustrated by Paul-Émile Colin, $9,036

A first edition of the Greek poet's work published in France in 1912 illustrated with 114 woodcuts. Paul-Émile Colin (1867-1949) was a French engraver and painter. He illustrated many books, including for Zola and Kipling.


The Black Mountain Review edited by Robert Creeley, $8,500

A complete run of all seven issues of this influential literary magazine from the Black Mountain College. The first issue appeared in 1954 and the last in 1957. There were numerous important contributors, including Jack Kerouac and Hubert Selby Jr.


Anatomia Uteri Humani Gravidi Tabulis Illustrata by William Hunter, $8,485

One of the great textbooks on obstetrics. A first edition from 1774. The title translates as The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus exhibited in Figures. It took 30 years to write as Hunter had trouble obtaining the cadavers of pregnant women for dissection.