Swann Galleries in New York City closed out its 2018 auction season with a marathon sale of maps and atlases, natural history and color plate books on Dec. 13. The auction saw a sell-through rate of 89 percent, five records, and steady interest across categories.
Currier & Ives Print "Across The Continent" Sets Record At Swann
Depiction Of American Frontier Upon Completion Of Transcontinental Railroads Brings $62,500
The runaway top lot of the sale was Across the Continent, 1868, a Currier & Ives print depicting the changing landscape of the mid 19th-century American frontier upon the completion of the Transcontinental Railroads. Significant for its subject matter and memorable provenance, the work came across the block, by descent, from the noteworthy collection of Thomas Winthrop Streeter, who was gifted the lithograph on his 80th birthday by his children. Across the Continent reached $62,500, selling to the trade, a record for the print.
Maps and atlases represented a generous portion of the sale, with several lots taking top spots and setting records. Maps included Samuel de Champlains scarce 1664 record of his later discoveries in Canada, going for $22,500, and John Overtons New and Most Exact map of America from 1671, selling for $11,875. Additional cartographic material featured a chart of the middle Atlantic Coast including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina by Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres ($13,750); Joan Vingboons Caarte van Westindien, ca. 1700, a large engraved chart of Florida, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean ($10,625); and a 1676 New and Accurate map of the world by John Speed ($9,375). Atlases included George Woolworth Coltons Atlas of America on the physical and political geography of North and South America and the West India Islands, which set a record with $11,250, and a first edition of a rare atlas of Spanish-controlled harbors in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, which earned $11,700.
Perhaps in response to the political climate, satirical color plate books performed well with Caricaturana, 1836-38, Honoré Daumiers collaboration with Charles Philipon taking aim at French society, selling for $18,750, and The Caricature Magazine, ca. 1806, by George Moutard Woodward, which satirized various elements of 19th-century British social and political themes, which garnered $16,250. Later in the sale, individual Gillray prints saw a 100 percent sell-through rate.
Additional highlights from color plate books included John James Audubons The Birds of America, 1859, which featured seven volumes and 500 tinted and hand-colored lithograph plates. The publication was offered together with Audubons The Quadrupeds of North America and reached $16,250. Michele Rene dAuberteuils 18th-century weekly Parisian theatre journals, Costume et Annales des Grands Theatres de Paris, set a record with $11,875. Also from the selection was Thomas Says American Conchology, 1830, and a well-illustrated manuscript ciphering book from the 18th century by William Greene ($8,750 and $8,125, respectfully).
A run of Japanese material was led by a color woodblock map of Uraga and Edo Bay relating to Commodore Matthew Perry and his Black Ships at $15,600. Additional Perry material included a manuscript report on the arrival of the commodore, featuring two large portraits of Perry and Commander Henry A. Adams, which was sold for $6,500. A panoramic color woodblock map of the roadways, waterways, cities, towns, and topography of the entire island chain of Japan and a large Edo-period woodblock Japanese atlas and encyclopedia were won for $8,450 apiece.
In many ways, this sale showed a great confidence in the antique map market with more interest than has been seen and strong prices to back that up. It was also encouraging to witness a surge in the middle-market items. The highlight of the sale, Currier & Ives' Across the Continent, was an exceptional result. It is a beautiful, historic image, but it was the fact that it was such a meaningful piece of Thomas Winthrop Streeter's personal collection that propelled it into record territory, noted Caleb Kiffer, specialist of maps and atlases.
The next speciality Maps and Atlases, Natural History, and Color Plate Books Auction at Swann Galleries will be on Thursday, June 6.