Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2022 Issue

The William S. Reese Sales Begin this Spring; Highlights Coming to California


Slipping into the daily news flow in January, The New York Times recently published an homage to William Reese, the exceptional rare book dealer who dominated collectible printed Americana over his 62 years.  Bill passed away on June 4th, 2018 and soon his personal collection of books and fine art will be sold at Christie’s in New York.  The field’s great enthusiasts will watch, bid, buy and remember as Mr. Reese’s personal copies have long been understood to be among the best examples on the planet. 


The material highlighted in the New York Times story recently is of course exceptional as is defined in the ways the field uses the term:  by rarity, condition and/or provenance:  any one category will make a copy special for the keenest observers.  Given Bill’s encyclopedic knowledge, his extensive community of experts he relied on, and his relentless pursuit of best copies, expect you’ll soon be encountering an exceptional sale.


The first lot to be auctioned will be a single lot in the Old Master Paintings Evening Sale, currently scheduled for April 27, 2022. It is a set of six important paintings by the Italian painter Agostino Brunias (1730-1796), depicting free people of color on the island of Dominica, est. $200,000-300,000.


The “main event” of Bill’s material will be sold in May in what Christie’s describes as one of “the most significant sales of printed Americana in more than half a century.”  The collection comprises 700 lots +/-, carrying a $12 to $18 million estimate that Christina Geiger, head of rare books and manuscripts, explains as “conservative.”


Christina is bringing some of the material to California for the ABAA Book Fair. Items can be viewed in the Junior Ballroom at the Oakland Convention Center on 12-13 February (closing early on the 13th) or at Christie’s San Francisco office by appointment. For a short-title list or to make an appointment, contact kayla.trowbridge@christies.com.


The Reese auctions are not posted yet but they are already visible in Christie’s calendar.  Look for the below:


Old Master Paintings, Evening Sale, 27 April 2022

The Private Collection of William S. Reese:  Part One, 25 May 2022

The Private Collection of William S. Reese:  Part Two, 26 May 2022


These will be followed by an Online Sale closing in late May or early June and the Reese Collection of Herman Melville selling in the autumn. Advance orders for all printed catalogues can be made: here.


The images attached with this article are photographs of highlights, taken last year in the New Haven home which Bill shared with his wife, Dorothy Hurt.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.

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