Miniature Book News #104: 2000 March Page: 2
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Christie's/South Ken is located on
Old Brompton Road, off the beaten
tourist path. Formerly an airplane
hanger during the war, South Ken
contains three or four separate sales
rooms, flexible as to size, on the ground
floor and basement. It is a very busy
While we were there over parts of
three days, viewing miniature books
before, during and after the Winterstein
sale, we witnessed a steady flow of
people coming in with various objects
to be looked at, valued, and possibly
consigned for later sales. And we
watched auctions of miscellaneous
paintings, glasswear and furniture.
As we were leaving on Friday, they
were setting things up in one room
for a sale of miniature European fans,
and a huge display of violins in another
room, while a violinist played to the
Viewing of the miniature books began
on Wednesday at 9:00 AM. This was
an awesome task. Some 4,000 books
were to be sold on Friday in 314 lots.
Some of the more valuable lots contained
only one book or set of books, while
many lots contained several books,
not all of which were identified in
Generally speaking compared to the
recent large sale of miniature books
at Bloomsbury Auction House in
November 1999 (see MBN 103 for an
account), the Winterstein collection
was even larger, the books more rare,
but in generally less good condition.
This Winterstein sale was by far the
largest single dispersal of miniature
books ever held. The Arthur Houghton
sale, also at Christie's in 1979, had
more lots but fewer total books. While
this sale was more favorable for
interested dealers because of the
multiple books in many lots, it was
very time-consuming to inspect. One
dealer brought his laptop computer
to the viewing and entered every book
to compare prices in order to help
him estimate his own bids.
This event received a good bit of press
attention, particularly prior to the
sale. Television crews from the BBC
and SKY-TV came over to video the
books while we were viewing, and
at least two London newspapers sent
over writers and photographers.
Mark Ghahramani, Christie Book
Department Head, and his staff did
the cataloguing in a short three months,
quite an accomplishment considering
the highly specialized nature of the
material. An outside consultant was
used for help on some items. As is
usual on many auction preparations,
perhaps a dozen important changes
were made to the descriptions as viewers
pointed out a catalogue error, a
misdescription, or in one case a way
out-of-line estimate (too high!).
The bidding commenced promptly
at 11:00 AM Friday in the main sales
room, and continued briskly without
interruption for over 23 hours. Each
lot had been separately videod the
day before by a two-man team. Three
video monitors were used to show
these lots as they came up for bidding.
As one might expect, final bids were
higher, lower, and in the middle of
the estimates. However, an unusually
large number of lots, over 90 or about
one-third of the total, were passed,
or "bought-in." That is, they failed
to reach the "reserve" price. The
reserve, if there is one, is usually
fixed at about 80% of the low estimate,
at about which point the auctioneer
starts the bidding. Or, he might start
out at a lower figure hoping to build
momentum-some of the tricks of
the trade. If the "chair," i.e. the
auctioneer, has written bids in advance
in his book for higher bids, he might
choose to begin at a higher figure.
In any event, the larger than usual
amount of bought-in lots tells us that
in those cases the catalogue estimates
were too high. In other lots, particularly
the manuscripts, final prices exceeded
the estimates substantially.
Let's take a look at some of the unusual
The first groupings to come up for
sale were the almanacs arranged first
by country and then in chronological
order. Prices realized are indicated
in f (pounds) and include the 15%
auction house premium. To convert
to $ (dollars), multiply by 1.60.
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Edison, Julian I. Miniature Book News #104: 2000 March, periodical, 2000; St. Louis, Missouri. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc9394/m1/2/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Rare Book and Texana Collections.