March's list of most expensive sales on AbeBooks reveals the importance of posters to lovers of art. A five-volume set of Les Maîtres de L’Affiche (Masters of the Poster) sold for more than £25,000 last month and easily topped our list.
Les Maîtres de L’Affiche was a French art magazine that reproduced the finest posters being created in France and elsewhere at the height of the Art Nouveau movement. More than 100 artists were featured including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, William Nicholson, Edward Penfield, Albert Guillaume and Maxfield Parrish. The posters promote a wide variety of themes from Harper’s Magazine to events, products, travel and tourism.
Art Nouveau spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was widely used in advertising. The ornate and elegant style celebrated craftsmanship and beauty.
In fact, art is featured throughout March’s expensive sales. There are watercolours from Marc Chagall, artwork produced in the style of Pablo Picasso and one of the defining photography books of the 1960s from British snapper David Bailey. There are also rare books detailing the French royal palaces and the Middle East with exceptional artwork.
2. Couleur Amour by Marc Chagall - £9,000
Colour Love features 13 watercolours from Chagall. The first edition book, signed by the artist and published in 1958, contains a preface by Jean Cassou. Each piece of artwork is a reproduction of the original produced using pochoir – a stenciling process where colours are applied by hand.
3. Femmes et Faunes by Antonina Vallentin - £6,000
Published in 1956 in Paris, this is a portfolio of 13 pochoirs of drawings ‘after Pablo Picasso’, which means in the style of Picasso. Printed on wove paper, this limited edition is one of 200 copies. Femmes et Faunes translates as women and wildlife.
4. Box of Pin-Ups by David Bailey - £5,700
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1965, this is Bailey’s debut masterpiece – a soft cover first edition. Bailey was just 27 at the time. The photo-book contains 36 images of celebrities and socialites from the the Swinging Sixties, including Terence Stamp, The Beatles, Michael Caine, Mick Jagger (on the cover in a fur hoodie), Jean Shrimpton, P.J. Proby, Rudolph Nureyev, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol and East End mobsters, the Kray Twins. Box of Pin-ups was not published in the USA due to the presence of the Krays in the book. The book shot Bailey to international stardom.
5. Complete Works on Architecture and Perspective by Sebastiano Serlio - £5,490
A key architectural handbook and the first to be a practical guide to the classical Greco-Roman style. Five parts in one volume. Published in 1611, this is the first English edition of Tutte L'Opere D'Architettura, Et Prospetiva. It was translated from Italian to Dutch and then into English, and includes 500 woodcut illustrations. This is the earliest work on architecture in the English language. The work is dedicated to Henry, Prince of Wales and the translation was probably by Robert Peake.
6. The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia by David Roberts - £5,480
Roberts was the first professional artist to visit the Middle East without the backing of a patron or the military. He travelled for 11 months up the Nile and through Egypt until reaching Jerusalem in 1839. He recorded landscapes, temples, ruins, and people in three sketchbooks. This artwork was published in three volumes. This edition was published in 1855.
7. Les Délices de Versailles et des Maisons Royales by Charles-Antoine Jombert - £5,470
Published in 1766, this first edition offers more than 200 illustrations of Versailles and other French royal palaces including Saint Cyr, Trianon and Chantilly. Jombert, the publisher, provided brief descriptions while the artwork came from Gabriel Pérelle and his son, Adam. Jombert published the book after recovering the original copper plates produced by Gabriel Pérelle, who died in 1677.
8. Stundenbuch der Katharina Von Kleve - £4,900
A facsimile published in 2010 of the Catherine of Cleves’ book of hours from the 15th century. Only 980 copies were produced. The book is an ornately illuminated manuscript, produced around 1440 by an anonymous Dutch artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves. The book helps readers to order their devotional lives.
9.= Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay - £4,500
A first edition from 1841, three volumes. This popular history covers alchemy, the South Seas, economics, crusades, facial hair, witch trials, thieves, cities, haunted houses, fortune-telling and other follies. Although written in a rather sensational style, the book is often referenced by economists.
9.= Mickey Mouse in King Arthur's Court by Walt Disney Studios - £4,500
Published in 1933, this pop-up book is inscribed by Walt Disney to songwriter Carrie Jacobs-Bond – “To Carrie Jacobs Bond with sincere admiration Walt Disney, 1937.” Jacobs-Bond wrote the song, I Love You Truly, and became the first woman to sell a million copies of a song.
9.= At Terror Street and Agony Way by Charles Bukowski - £4,500
Published by Black Sparrow Press in 1968, this is one of 15 signed presentation copies. All copies had an original Bukowski watercolour painting on a tipped-in page. This was the first hardbound Bukowski collection published by Black Sparrow.