About 70 highlights--including one of 23 known copies of the Declaration of Independence worth $400,000 to $600,000--from an upcoming auction of H. Bradley Martin’s vast library go on view at Sotheby’s Beverly Hills office today and Tuesday. Among the $6-million worth of items on view will be George Washington’s copy of “The Federalist Papers” (estimated to bring $250,000 to $400,000) and Ptolemy’s “Cosmographia,” a group of hand-colored maps from the 15th Century ($300,000 to $400,000).
Exhibited pieces from Martin’s ornithological collection include a folio of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” (expected to sell for $2 million to $3 million), Audubon’s 1826 journal and illustrated works by Eleazer Albin, Mark Cateby and Edward Lear.
Martin’s collection, billed by Sotheby’s as “one of the finest private libraries in America,” will be sold in New York and Monte Carlo in a series of auctions beginning in June and continuing next year. Martin’s entire library of 10,000 books and manuscripts is valued by the auction house at more than $30 million. The collection is so large that it will require a nine-volume catalogue priced at more than $350, according to Matthew Weigman of Sotheby’s.
Martin, who died this year, was a grandson of Henry Phipps, a partner of Andrew Carnegie. During 63 years of avid collecting, Martin built a collection of 7,000 illustrated ornithological books that Sotheby’s calls “the best in private hands.” He also acquired rare documents of American history and extraordinary collections of American, French, English and children’s literature. Martin’s holdings include more than 100 letters from Marcel Proust (most of them to Baron de Montesquiou) and a letter from Herman Melville denying symbolism in “Moby Dick.”
Among dozens of first editions and presentation copies of books exhibited are Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” Honore de Balzac’s “Le Pere Goriot,” Charles Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” and Edgar Allen Poe’s “Eureka” and “Tamerlane, and Other Poems.”
The Beverly Hills exhibition, on view at 308 N. Rodeo Drive from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., is the last stop of a three-city tour that has already visited Chicago and Tokyo. Information: (213) 274-0340.