Ground-breaking botany, the works of two famous English writers, golf from the days of plus fours and stiff cocktails, racy fashion photography, classic fantasy fiction with a touch of Dracula thrown in, an iconic novel about mental illness, and some illustrated poetry make up our top 10 list of expensive sales from the first three months of 2016.
1. Selectarum Stirpium Americanorum Historia
by Nicolaus Joseph Jacquin - $25,679
This book is one of the first detailed accounts of American botany and describes dozens of new species. Jacquin travelled around the West Indies and South America between 1754 and 1759, gathering information for the book. Published in 1763 in folio size and bound in fine mottled calf, this is a very scarce first edition of Jacquin's first major work (no other complete copies exist on AbeBooks). It contains 264 hand-drawn water-color illustrations.
2. The Works of HG Wells
Published in New York by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1924-27. Twenty eight volumes bound in brown half morocco. Number 524 of 1,050 copies signed by the author on the limitation leaf of volume I.
3. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
Published by Methuen & Co in 1908, only 80 copies were printed. Fourteen volumes in original limp vellum.
4. Down the Fairway: The Golf Life and Play of Robert T. Jones, Jr
by Bobby Jones & O.B. Keeler - $12,348
Published in 1927, this is number 189 of 300 limited edition copies signed by Jones and Keeler. Specially bound with a vellum spine, this is one of the greatest golf books ever published. Jones was probably the best amateur golfer to play the sport. He retired at the top of his game after winning the "impregnable quadrilateral" or what is now called the Grand Slam. That is, he won all four major championship tournaments of his era in the same year, 1930. Jones would go on to found and co-design the Augusta National Golf Club and create the Masters Tournament. A Harvard graduate, Jones had a decent writing style. Written before he completed the Grand Slam, he describes how he prepared for a tournament: "I have a good dinner in the evening in my room, prefaced by two good, stiff highballs, the first taken in a tub of hot water; the finest relaxing combination I know; and then a few cigarettes and a bit of conversation, and bed at 9 o'clock." Sold by Valuable Book Group, LLC from New Jersey.
5. Plantes Rares du Jardin de Genève
by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle - $10,260
Published in 1825, this is a first edition of a rare and influential botanical book. It features 24 hand-finished color plates with 21 of them by Jean Christophe Heyland. The book describes rare plants cultivated at the Botanical Gardens in Geneva, including some common plants like amaryllis and mint. Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778-1841) developed a system of taxonomy (a word he coined) based on plant anatomy that was the dominant method of classification for half a century, and a profound influence on later plant classification schemes. He also wrote about the organic evolution of plants, and the way species battle for access to natural resources. His writing influenced Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. Sold by Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books from Oregon.
by Helmut Newton - $9,027
Size matters with this behemoth. Published in 1999, Sumo is an aptly named photography book that weighs more than 77 pounds (35 kilos), and is 19.7 inches x 27.6 inches in size. It's so massive that it comes with its own folding metal stand. Published by Taschen, the book offers 450 photographs in color and black-and-white of scantily clad fashion models. The copy purchased was one of the 10,000 signed and numbered copies that sold out immediately after publication and have since increased in value on the rare book market. The good news is that a much cheaper version does exist. June Newton, Helmut's wife, issued a revised edition in 2009 and prices begin around $85.
7. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
by JRR Tolkien - $8,069
Christopher Lee's personal copies of Tolkien's famous books. Lee, who died in 2015, played Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy and was the only member of the production to have met Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring is a 4th impression from November 1955. The Return of the King is a first edition, first impression from 1955, and The Two Towers is a second impression from 1955. Lee had signed all three books. There was also a loosely inserted page of notes on hotel notepaper. They appear to be notes to himself ('House of Eorl in wrong place?' 'Gimli - Jammy Sod/ Don't give a Toss' etc.) about the making of the Lord of the Rings film and mention Saruman, Gandalf, Gimli and Tolkien. Lee had a long and distinguished acting career before working on Jackson's films. He starred as Dracula in the Hammer Horror films and was also a Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun. Sold by Any Amount of Books from London.
8=. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
by Ken Kesey - $7,500
A 1962 first edition of the author's debut novel. Laid in is a bookplate signed by Kesey and lavishly underlined by him in red and blue marker.
8=. 2001: A Space Odyssey
by Arthur C Clarke - $7,500
A 1968 first edition, signed and inscribed by the author to Robert O'Brien, then president of MGM, the producer of the film of the book directed by Stanley Kubrick. "To Bob O'Brien, With many thanks and my appreciation of his support. Arthur C. Clarke. 28 May '68." O'Brien gave the go-ahead for the production of the film. The book was published after the release of the movie, which premiered on April 4, 1968. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, and won for best visual effects.
10. Les Cavaliers d'Ombre
illustrated by Pablo Picasso - $7,365
Published in 1954 in Paris, this folio-sized book contains seven original lithographs by Picasso and a hand engraved copperplate intaglio by Georges Betemps. Number 22 of 200 copies. Bound in full red morocco. Les Cavaliers d'Ombre, or The Shadow Riders, is a collection of 14 poems written between 1951 and 1953 by Genevieve Laporte.