Selected over the course of nearly three decades, The Library of a Distinguished American Book Collector reflects the collector’s great intellectual curiosity and eclectic interests, as well as a deeply held passion for American history. The Library has a particular emphasis on George Washington, including an extraordinarily fresh copy of the 1754 Journal of George Washington; an important letter signed by him about securing New York City during the Revolutionary War; and, most remarkably, seven books from Washington’s Mount Vernon Library, all with his bold ownership signature on their title-pages – the largest group of books from Washington’s library to appear in a single auction since the Bishop John Fletcher Hurst sale in 1904.
The Library also contains many literary first editions, highlighted by a beautiful copy of Leaves of Grass, an unusually tight, bright copy of Moby-Dick and an extensive collection of works by Mark Twain. The collector went beyond the boundaries of the United States, and his Library includes what is probably the world’s finest set of Captain James Cook’s Voyages, exceptional copies of both Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and an inscribed first edition and proof copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia.
The Library of a Distinguished American Book Collector sold for $4,891,634 within pre-sale estimates, led by seven books from Washington’s Mount Vernon Library, all with his bold signature on their title pages and his bookplate, which achieved $1,205,000 (est. $1/1.5 million). This is the largest group of books from Washington’s library to appear in a single auction since the Bishop John Fletcher Hurst sale in 1904 and features novels such as Jonathan Swift’s The Beauties of Swift, Alain Rene Le Sage’s The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane. Vol. 3. and Joseph Priestley’s Discourses Relating to the Evidences of Revealed Religion.
Shattering the previous auction record for Thomas Paine’s iconic 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, an extraordinary association copy of the rare first edition brought $545,000 with a pre-sale estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. A first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, of the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life exceeded pre-sale estimates of $100,000 to $150,000, fetching $209,000.