FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The premier attraction of Waverly’s March 1 Fine and Rare Books, Maps & Manuscripts auction is an 1840 first edition of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America. It comes with provenance from the Washington, DC-area collection of Charles Truitt and is estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
Known as an “octavo” edition, the 9-inch-tall book is especially desirable because it is complete, with all 500 illustrations present.
“Usually Audubon editions of this type are pilfered for their famous and decorative illustrations, which people frame and display. This one is special because it is 100 percent complete,” said Waverly’s specialist Anson Brown.
The consignor of the Audubon book is Charles Truitt’s son, who has kept and cared for the important book from his father’s collection for many years. He has also consigned to auction an edition of John James Audubon and John Bachman’s The Quadrapeds of North America. It is estimated at $3,000-$6,000.
Another highlight of the 215-lot sale is a circa-1900 fully leather-bound edition of The Life of Napoleon, which came to Waverly’s from a couple in Winchester, Va., who had it on a bookshelf for 38 years.
“The gentleman knew that it probably had value, as he noticed that it was an edition of 1 of 26 volumes issued by the publisher. Upon examining the set at Waverly’s, we found that it contained a letter signed around 1794 by Napoleon Bonaparte, when he was a general,” said Brown.
The letter was likely dictated by Napoleon, penned by his secretary, marked “personal” and signed by Napoleon, according to Brown. “What is most remarkable is that, after 38 years of ownership, the couple never even knew the letter was there,” Brown said. “They were pleasantly surprised when I told them the auction estimate would be $4,000-$6,000.”
Other noteworthy items in the March 1 sale include a certificate of membership in the Society of the Cincinnati, signed by President George Washington, estimate $2,000-$3,000; and Andrew Ellicott’s map titled “Plan of the City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia,” estimate $1,000-$3,000.
“This is probably the strongest auction we’ve had in the last couple of years,” said Brown. “In addition to connoisseur’s items like the Audubon Birds of America edition, we also have a number of pieces that aren’t particularly rare but still quite sought after by collectors,” said Brown.
Waverly’s March 1 Fine and Rare Books, Maps & Manuscripts auction will commence at 6:30 p.m. at Quinn’s & Waverly’s galleries located at 360 S. Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046. For information on any item in the upcoming auction, call 703-532-5632 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Quinn’s & Waverly’s website at www.quinnsauction.com.