A bonanza for bibliophiles, Magnificent Books, Manuscripts, and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick, 2nd Lord Hesketh (1916-1955) will be offered in a Sotheby's sale on Dec. 7.
The star lot is a rare first edition of John James Audubon’s (1785- 1851) “Birds of America.” Recognized as a masterpiece of American art, the four volumes with 435 hand-colored illustrations may reel in a record 6 million pounds ($9.2 million).
Hesketh's copy, one of about 119 in existence, is in excellent condition, retaining its original lockable subscriber’s binding.
Published in London between 1827 and 1838, the book measures 3 feet by 2 feet because Audubon wanted to portray the birds life-size.
The previous auction record for a printed book, another copy of "Birds of America," is $8.8 million paid by Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar at Christie's in 2000.
Hesketh sought the best examples of typography, illustration, illumination, literary and historical importance, and fine binding, for his collection. The British baron's trust is also letting go of a copy of William Shakespeare’s 1623 First Folio, with a high estimate of 1.5 million pounds, and Pierre-Joseph Redouté's original drawings on vellum of roses (various estimates).