S otheby’s is pleased to invite participation in New York’s July sales, “Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana.” “Part 2” of this two-part series is an online-only sale, open for bidding the 7th through 21st of July. In Part 2 we are thrilled to offer a range of material from a Gutenberg Bible leaf to original illustrations by Dr. Seuss.
John M. Schiff (1904–1987) was a philanthropist and investment banker, active on the boards of many charitable, academic, and civic institutions. Schiff was also an enthusiastic horseman, playing polo and riding to hounds as a young man and later becoming a breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. He also owned a racing stable at Belmont Park, which ran in purple and white silks.
John Schiff’s father was Mortimer L. Schiff, probably the greatest collector of French book bindings in American history. So it is no surprise that his son indulged his passion for horses and other outdoor activities in his own library.
The fine sporting library formed by John Schiff was sold by Sotheby’s in 1990, but a small selection of books was retained by a member of the family, who has now consigned them for sale. This consignment is essentially an epitome of the larger, single-owner sale: Alken aplenty, featuring a fine set of the 1824 compilation A Collection of Sporting and Humorous Designs; other equestrian and equine works, including a series of original racing watercolors by John Beer and The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs; some of the scarcer Derrydales; the 1595 Gentlemans Academie and the 1859 Compleatest Angling Booke that Ever Was Writ, among other works of field and stream; and grand folio natural history and other illustrated books.
But, like the 1990 auction of the principal part of the Library of John M. Schiff, this portion contains many works of interest outside the general categories of sporting and illustrated books: Adventures of Tom Sawyer in the publisher’s half morocco binding; the Mortimer Schiff copy of Robinson Crusoe; Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities in parts; and a Terrink “A” edition of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World in contemporary calf. But chief among the non-sporting books—chief, perhaps, of this Schiff sequel—is a superb presentation set of Wordsworth’s Miscellaneous Poems, inscribed by him to his daughter Dora in all four volumes and with textual emendations in the author’s hand.
Please note that as the result of a thwarted theft, some of the books (as in the 1990 auction) have had the Schiff bookplate removed and spurious bookplate inserted.
This sale features a strong offering of Americana, highlighted by a select series of presidential manuscripts from the collection of Jay I. Kislak, sold to benefit the Kislak Family Foundation. Other remarkable lots include Vorspiel der Neuen-Welt and Jacobs Kampff- und Ritter-Platz, two of Benjamin Franklin’s rarest imprints, bound together in one volume; the only autograph letter signed by Dr. Samuel Mudd to appear at auction; and Alexander Hamilton’s copy of A Complete Code of Commercial Law (1795).
From a Guttenberg leaf, to a copy of The Byble, which is all the holy Scripture, a first edition of Matthew's version of the Bible, which is generally considered to be the real primary version of our English Bible, these lots span over two centuries, and offer a range of rare and compelling attributes.
With Ian Fleming, John le Carré, George Orwell, and a host of others, this sale offers no shortage of unique and compelling first editions, presentation copies, and manuscripts. Highlights include Let Us Compare Mythologies, Leonard Cohen’s first book of poetry, one of only 400 copies, affectionately inscribed; a first edition, limited issue of James Joyce's unparalleled modernist experiment, Finnegans Wake, no. 66 of 125 copies signed by Joyce, accompanied by an inscribed photograph portrait; and a presentation copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, with a drawing of a butterfly by the author.
These lots encompass striking works on orchids by Robert Warner, Jean Jules Linden, and others, the first octavo editions of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America and the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, and William Bligh’s stirring A Narrative of the Mutiny, on board His Majesty's Ship Bounty.
And from Charles Addams to Albert Einstein, Part 2 of this sale offers material that will appeal to any interests.
Part 1 of this series—a live sale—will run concurrently, opening for bidding on the 7th, and closing on 21st of July. An exhibition highlighting both Parts 1 and 2 will be open the 12th through 20th of July. Private views outside of these hours are available upon request.