Maps were so plentiful at Swann Galleries’ December 5 auction of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books that one could be forgiven for getting lost. Many buyers chose to bid in person, contributing to a strong sell-through rate of 84%.
The highlight of the sale was Richard Hakluyt’s 1587 map of the New World, Novus Orbis—the first to use the designations “Virginea” and “Nuevo Mexico.” It was one of a selection of duplicates from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Collection, originating in the William C. Wooldridge Map Collection, which was generously donated by the Virginia Cartographical Society in 2017. All proceeds from the sale of these lots will be used to support this important acquisition and the collections at Colonial Williamsburg. In its first appearance at auction since 1917, the Hakluyt map brought $80,000.
Maps represented more than half of the auction’s offerings. A masterwork of sixteenth-century Venetian cartography, Bolognino Zaltieri’s 1566 rendering of North America in the Lafreri style depicted the mythical northwest Strait of Anian, dividing the continents of Asia and North America; it sold for $47,500. Maps by Martin Waldseemüller performed well, with the captivating woodcut Tabula Terre Nove, 1513—the first map of the Americas to appear in an atlas—selling to a collector for $27,500. A hand-colored map of the same year brought $18,750. John Smith’s 1616 map of New England, called the “foundation map” of the region, realized $35,000.
Not everything in the sale concerned cartography. A fine book of detailed watercolors of birds by John Gerrard Keulemans reached $6,500, above a high estimate of $2,500. Similarly, the ink-and-watercolor sketch Golden Eagle and Ptarmigan by Louis Agassiz Fuertes flew past its $3,000 high estimate to sell for $12,500 to a collector.
Caleb Kiffer, Maps & Atlases Specialist at Swann Galleries, said he was “very pleased” with the sale. “Swann continues to cruise the top of the auction market to buy and sell exceptionally scarce high-profile items, as well as holding strong with mid-range material. Across the board, the map-collecting community is out in force and the results of this sale are evidence that Swann is an important part of keeping that interest and energy alive.”
The next auction of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books at Swann Galleries will be on June 7, 2018. The house is currently accepting quality consignments.
104 25th Street
Swann Auction Galleries, New York
Swann Auction Galleries
P: 212 254 4710 x19