It’s all about American history this month at Christie’s New York as they sell two iconic book collections at auction: that of Bruce M. Lisman of Burlington, Vermont and that of Norman Bobins of Chicago. Both collections are renowned and both have been the fruits of over forty years of assiduous and well-advised collecting. They celebrate two different aspects of American culture: the literary and the visual arts, from the early years of the nation and through the 19th century. Mr. Lisman owns the finest and most extensive collection of American literature to come to auction since the Bradley Martin sales in 1990 (including the most important collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne in private or in institutional hands). Mr. Bobins’s collection was celebrated in a monograph published in 2005 as one of the largest collection of color-plate travel and genre books in private hands. His collection will sell over multiple auctions, of which this is the first--focusingon landscapes and cityscapes of North America.
The Bruce M. Lisman Collection of Important American Literature: Part One will take place live on 15 June at 10am, with Part Two running from 2-16 June online. The Magnificent Library of Norman Bobins: Part One, American Color will take place live on 16 June at 10am, with Part Two in London in July.
The Bruce M. Lisman Collection of Important American Literature: Part One features a wealth of printed books and manuscripts from some of the most important writers of the 18th and 19th century: Phillis Wheatley Peters (including the first edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Lot 1), Washington Irving (Salmagundi, Lot 7, and The Sketch Book, Lot 8, both in original wrappers, along with autograph manuscripts and letters), James Fenimore Cooper (The Water Witch, printed in Dresden, Lot 22), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (a rare first issue of Evangeline in original boards, Lot 43, along with numerous autograph manuscripts and presentation copies), Edgar Allan Poe (Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque inscribed to his cousin, Lot 35), Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin in original parts from the National Era, Lot 57, as well as an autograph letter appealing to help an enslaved minister purchase his freedom, Lot 60), Nathaniel Hawthorne (see below), Herman Melville (the rarest of the triple-deckers, The Whale, Lot 126), Walt Whitman (an autograph manuscript from Leaves of Grass, Lot 144, along with the rare Emerson broadside accompanying the 1855 first edition, Lot 141), and Samuel Clemens (fine first editions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Lots 158 and 152, as well as an autograph letter to his future father-in-law, defending his reputation, Lot 150). Notably the collection of Hawthorne is the finest in private hands, beginning with the author's heavily annotated proofs for his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter (Lot 89). Other books and manuscripts include a family copy of The Scarlet Letter, together with the only known manuscript excerpt from the novel in private hands (Lot 90); rare presentation copies of the novels and tales; first printings of stories from gift-books, annuals, and magazines; autograph letters; books from his library; a linen bag dating from his days at Bowdoin College (Lot 65); and more.
The Bruce M. Lisman Collection of Important American Literature: Part Two chronicles the story of American literature beginning in the 18th century and Federal Period—the first fruits of American cultural life. These books are individually very rare, and especially so as a sizable offering to come on the market at once. Part Two is especially strong in women authors of the 18th and early 19th century: they include Ann Eliza Bleecker, Susanna Rowson, Hannah Foster, Catharine Sedgwick, Lydia Maria Child, Leonora Sansay, and others. Further highlights include a volume of America's earliest anthems; the first known play to be written, printed and performed in what would become the United States, as well as other early works of American drama; the first American spy novel; the first anthology of American poetry; and more. Part Two runs through the 19th century, with works by John Neal, Charles Brockden Brown, William Cullen Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson (including a rare pair of presentation copies of his Essays (Lot 247), James Russell Lowell, Henry David Thoreau, John Greenleaf Whittier, Emily Dickinson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and more Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Hawthorne section includes books from his library (such as his copy of Inscriptions from Burying-Grounds in Salem, Massachusetts, Lot 297), a fine selection of first printings in important magazines of the period (including a rare run of The New-England Magazine in original wrappers, Lot 296), important autograph letters, and more.
The Magnificent Library of Norman Bobins: Part One, American Color features the color-plate book collection of Chicago-native Mr. Bobins. By his own account, the pursuit of these lavishly illustrated volumes united his four passions of history, art, travel and books. The collection traces the historical use of color in publishing, from hand-colored copper-plate engravings, mezzotints and aquatints, to lithography and chromolithography. All methods are used to create sumptuous books showing landscapes, peoples, artwork, and historical events that the reading public found new and marvelous. Part One of the Collection focuses on the Americas, including Western Americana, Canada and the Arctic, the Caribbean, and South America. Highlights include: Thomas Moran’s Yellowstone National Park, published by Louis Prang in 1876 (Lot 43); Karl Bodmer’s Travels in North America from 1839-1841, a German edition with very rare original hand-coloring (Lot 20); an exceptionally rare edition of J.P. Cockburn’s Views of Quebec from 1833 (Lot 31); and titles by John Hill, George Harvey, James Otto Lewis, Henry Lewis, Augustus Kollner, Ramon Torres-Mendes, Samuel Cresswell, et al. The Bodmer is the first copy with full, original hand-coloring that we trace at auction in decades. Suitably, the Bobins Collection also includes the very first United States color-plate book: William Birch’s City of Philadelphia, 1800; and the first United States large color-plate book of landscapes: Joshua Shaw and John Hill’s Picturesque Views of American Scenery, 1820.
On View at Christie’s New York from June 10-15
Enquiries: Andrew Darlington, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-636-2665