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Results of Hindman's Recent Fine Books & Manuscripts Auctions

A complete copy of Edward S. Curtis’s seminal The North American Indian, arguably the most complete ethnographic record of the native peoples of North America ever assembled, stole the show in two days of Fine Books & Manuscript auctions at Hindman on November 9 and 10. The Curtis was the top lot of the single-owner Fine Books from the Dorros Family Collection auction on November 9, which saw a sales total of $1.5 million. Combined with the various-owner Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, including Americana auction on the following day, the Chicago auction house achieved $2.4 million during the back-to-back sales.

Documenting one of the great races of mankind Curtis’s The North American Indian was one of the most ambitious and expensive publication projects of its kind, taking more than two decades to complete and resulting in one of the most important published works of the 20th century. All told, The North American Indian comprises 40 volumes: 20 text volumes featuring 1,511 illustrations, 1,505 photogravures, four maps and two diagrams, along with 20 supplemental folio volumes featuring some 723 full sheet photogravures in sepia, many of which have become iconic images.  Funded in part by JP Morgan, Curtis set out to document as much of Native American culture and history as he could. Writing in the introduction, he explained that “the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost.” Complete sets in any condition are rare on the market and therefore highly coveted, and the set offered from the Dorros Family Collection auction attracted enthusiastic bidding that sent the piece past its low estimate selling for $882,000 to a telephone bidder.
   
Influenced by their photographic safaris to Africa and Asia, the Dorros Family Collection included a carefully curated of selection of exceptional ornithological and natural history works. The highlight of the group was a third edition of Mark Catesby’s 1771 work The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, which sold for $81,900 against a presale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.

Other highlights included Gould's A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or Family of Humming-Birds which sold for $85,050; George Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America, The rare 31-Plate hand-colored issue, with six new plates sold for $40,950. Audubon's The Birds of America, first octavo edition fetched $37,800, and a first edition of Frans Balthazar Solvyn's Les Hindous ou Description de Leurs Moeurs, Coutumes et Ceremonies sold for $28,350.
 
Hindman’s November 10 Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, including Americana auction began with an extensive collection of works on the art of fencing and swordplay that spanned five centuries. Assembled by a single fencing enthusiast, the group of 40 lots opened the auction with a flourish, netting over $130,000 and seeing each lot sell. The highlight of the section was a rare first edition of Joachim Meyer’s 1570 treatise on the art of fencing which vaulted past its $8,000 to $12,000 estimate before selling for $40,320.
 
The works of John James Audubon performed well in the various owner sale with all six lots by the naturalist surpassing presale estimates. The top lot of the group was Plate CCCXI, an engraving of the American white pelican, which sold for $88,200. Also of note, Plate CCLXXI, an engraving of the Great White Hero sold for $31,500, easily surpassing the presale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000
 
Other notable highlights included Marc Chagall's Bible, a signed, limited edition in an exceptional binding by Renée Haas, which sold for $50,400; The limited "Memorial Edition" of Mark Twain's Writings with a Samuel Clemens autograph manuscript tipped in, sold for $20,160, and a first edition, presentation copy, of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, with caricatures in Wells' hand, fetched $17,640.