Auction Results

The Top Books & Manuscripts Results Across the Globe in 2017

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Launch Slideshow

Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts department has once again proven themselves to be the world’s leading specialists in their field of expertise, achieving exceptional results and setting numerous world records in 2017. Offering sales in traditional and specialised categories, including Musical Manuscripts and History of Science & Technology, the year's 26 global auctions totalled over $58 million.

Click ahead for the top highlights from the past year, and consign now for the upcoming season.

The Top Books & Manuscripts Results Across the Globe in 2017

  • Flown Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Outer Decontamination Bag, 1969. Sold for $1,812,500.
    The bag used by Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 Mission to bring back the first samples of the Moon ever collected.

    Space Exploration on 20 July 2017 in New York
  • Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Los Caprichos. [Madrid: Printed by Rafael Esteve for the Artist, 1799]. Sold for $912,500.
    First edition of Goya’s first and most celebrated work. An exceptional copy in a contemporary Spanish binding.

    Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening Sale on 25 January 2017 in New York
  • Mao Zedong, Autograph Manuscript Notes on Classical Chinese Literature. Sold for £704,750.
    Remarkable notes revealing Mao’s deep continuing interest in classical Chinese literature.

    English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, Including the Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin on 11 July 2017 in London

  • Gustav Mahler, The Autograph Manuscript of Mahler’s Great Song “Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen,” for Solo Voice and Orchestra, Signed (“Gustav Mahler”). Sold for £668,750.
    The full score with an autograph presentation inscription on the title-wrapper to his friend, Professor Guido Adler on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. This is Mahler's greatest song for voice and orchestra. It is also one of Mahler’s most personal works: "It is myself," Mahler told his faithful acolyte and chronicler Natalie Bauer-Lechner. "It is the feeling that rises just up to the lips but does not pass beyond them."

    Musical Manuscripts on 23 May 2017 in London
  • Marcel Proust, Du Côté de chez Swann. Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1913. Sold for €535,500 ($618,942).
    First edition, one of the mythical copies printed on Japon Impérial paper, and including important manuscript documents pertaining to the publication history.

    Livres et Manuscrits on 30 October 2017 in Paris
  • Johann Sebastian Bach, Fine Autograph Manuscript of the Revised First Violin Part for Cantata No. 130, Herr Gott Dich Loben Alle Wir, Inscribed by Bach “Aria. Sub Signo… Violino 1." Sold for £464,750.
    Autograph manuscripts of J.S. Bach, particularly in such fine condition, are exceptionally rare. In this manuscript, the composer arranges and adapts his music for solo violin.

    Musical Manuscripts on 23 May 2017 in London
  • An Exceedingly Rare Ashkenazic Hebrew Bible with Numerous Micrographic Decorations, Scribe: Mattithiah ben Jedidiah, [Northern France: ca. 1250–1275]. Sold for $555,000.
    An early Ashkenazic witness to the Jewish scribal tradition of figurative Masorah and one of only two known Ashkenazic Hebrew Bibles with micrographic ornamentation in private hands.

    Important Judaica on 20 December 2017 in New York
  • A Very Fine and Fully Operational Four-Rotor “M4” Kriegsmarine Enigma Cipher Machine. Berlin-Wilmersorf, Germany, Heimsoeth und Rinke, 1944. Sold for $435,000.
    The rarest and most desirable of all Enigmas, the M4 was one of the hardest to decrypt. Very few M4 machines survived the war, and to find one that it complete and still in such pristine condition, fully operational is rare indeed.

    History of Science & Technology on 12 December 2017 in New York
  • An Exceptional Copy of the Sefer Minhagim of Rabbi Samuel of Ulm, Accompanied by Numerous Other Historical, Rabbinic and Literary Texts. [Italy: Second Half of the 15th Century]. Sold for $435,000.
    Manuscripts like this one are of immense value to scholars of medieval Hebrew literature due to their wide-ranging, eclectic contents. This codex in particular contains several works that have no parallels among the corpus of surviving Hebrew manuscripts, and a number of the texts here remain unpublished.

    Important Judaica on 20 December 2017 in New York
  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied, Voyage dans l’Intérieur de l’Amérique du Nord Executé pendant les Années 1832, 1833, et 1834. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, 1840–1843. Sold for $420,500.
    The greatest American travel narrative and the most important depiction of American Indians in the frontier era: a very early issue of only 30 copies with the best plates in contemporary hand colour.

    Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana on 13 June 2017 in New York
  • Leonhard Fuchhs, De historia stirpium commentarii insignes. Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1542. Sold for £309,000.
    First edition. A finely-coloured copy of “perhaps the most celebrated and most beautiful herbal ever published” (Printing and the Mind of Man).

    The Library of a European Gentleman on 2 November 2017 in London
  • Béla Bartók, The Autograph Working Manuscript of the Second Rhapsody for Violin and Piano, BB96, Containing Many Revisions and Two Distinct Endings, 1928–1929. Sold for £309,000.
    The complete score of the original version, sent to the violinist Zoltán Székely in 1928, with a revised ending added on a separate leaf in 1929, containing several passages cut from all editions.

    Musical Manuscripts on 23 May 2017 in London
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