‘Birds of America’ Book Fetches Record $11.5 Million

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Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A hand-colored illustration from the John James Audubon book "Birds of America." The work, an early-19th-century first edition in four volumes, sold for 7.3 million pounds at Sotheby's Dec. 7 auction in London.

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Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A hand-colored illustration from the John James Audubon book "Birds of America." The work, an early-19th-century first edition in four volumes, sold for 7.3 million pounds at Sotheby's Dec. 7 auction in London. Close

A hand-colored illustration from the John James Audubon book "Birds of America." The work, an early-19th-century... Read More

Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A hand-colored illustration from the John James Audubon book "Birds of America." The work, published from 1827 to 1838, was estimated to sell for as much as 6 million pounds in Sotheby's Dec. 7 auction of books, manuscripts and drawings from the collection of Frederick, 2nd Baron Hesketh. The work fetched 7.3 million pounds. Close

A hand-colored illustration from the John James Audubon book "Birds of America." The work, published from 1827 to... Read More

Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A miniature from the 14th-century manuscript the Rochefoucauld Grail. The item was estimated to sell for between 1.5 million pounds and 2 million pounds at a Sotheby's auction in London on Dec. 7. The manuscript, which fetched 2.4 million pounds, is the first surviving work to tell at length the story of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Close

A miniature from the 14th-century manuscript the Rochefoucauld Grail. The item was estimated to sell for between 1.5... Read More

Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

"Brood Mare and Foals" by George Stubbs. The work was estimated to sell for between 10 million pounds and 15 million pounds at Sotheby's Dec. 8 auction of Old Master paintings in London. One of a number of high-value works being sold in a week from U.K. aristocratic collections, it was being offered from the collection of the Earl of Macclesfield. It fetched 10.1 million pounds with fees. Close

"Brood Mare and Foals" by George Stubbs. The work was estimated to sell for between 10 million pounds and 15 million... Read More

Source: Christie's via Bloomberg

The "Ordination," a painting by Nicolas Poussin. The work was estimated at as much as 20 million pounds ($31.5 million), at Christie's International on Dec. 7, 2010, and failed to sell. Close

The "Ordination," a painting by Nicolas Poussin. The work was estimated at as much as 20 million pounds ($31.5... Read More

A Canaletto view of the Piazzetta, Venice, included in Sotheby's Dec. 6 auction of Old Master paintings in London. The restored 18th-century canvas was estimated to sell for between 2 million pounds and 3 million pounds. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's via Bloomberg Close

A Canaletto view of the Piazzetta, Venice, included in Sotheby's Dec. 6 auction of Old Master paintings in London.... Read More

Source: Coys of Kensington via Bloomberg

A 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB that competed in the last of the original Mille Miglia round-Italy races in 1958. It failed to sell after being estimated to fetch as much as 1 million pounds at an auction held by Coys in London on Dec. 7. Close

A 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB that competed in the last of the original Mille Miglia round-Italy races in 1958. It failed... Read More

Source: Bonhams via Bloomberg

A 1970 Mercedes-Benz 600 Saloon limousine, formerly owned by Elvis Presley, sold for 80,700 pounds at a classic-car auction held by Bonhams in Surrey, U.K., on Dec. 6, 2010. Close

A 1970 Mercedes-Benz 600 Saloon limousine, formerly owned by Elvis Presley, sold for 80,700 pounds at a classic-car... Read More

A copy of John James Audubon’s early- 19th-century illustrated “Birds of America” sold in London tonight for 7.3 million pounds ($11.5 million), a record for any printed work.

The book was estimated at 6 million pounds at Sotheby’s. Its price exceeded the $8.8 million paid in March 2000 by Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar at Christie’s International for another copy.

The work was bought by London-based art dealer Michael Tollemache, who said, “I think it’s priceless, don’t you?”

Earlier, a copy of William Shakespeare’s 1623 First Folio had an estimate of as much as 1.5 million pounds at hammer prices and made 1.5 million pounds with fees, bought by an unidentified U.S. dealer in the room.

Ferrari, Poussin and King Arthur were among the eclectic Christmas offerings at other London auctions today that were estimated to raise as much as 67 million pounds.

The Rochefoucauld Grail, narrating the adventures of the legendary British king Arthur, was first on the block at Sotheby’s. It was bought for 2.4 million pounds with fees by the London-based dealer Sam Fogg. It was valued at between 1.5 million pounds and 2 million pounds.

This evening, David Manners, the 11th Duke of Rutland, was among several U.K. aristocrats seeking to raise cash by selling Old Master paintings.

Nicolas Poussin’s “Ordination” hung for more than 200 years at the Duke’s home, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. It is offered by Christie’s, with an estimate of 15 million pounds to 20 million pounds, and failed to find a buyer.

Museum Money

“It was a difficult picture to sell,” London based dealer Jean-Luc Baroni said. “Poussin is an intellectual artist and not everyone likes him. It's hard to find a museum with that kind of money at the moment.”

A very different rarity offered tonight was a 1958 Ferrari 250GT LWB “Tour de France.” It had an upper estimate of 1 million pounds, the most valuable of 141 cars being sold by the London-based auction house Coys. The car failed to sell, with dealers saying it wasn't original enough for some buyers. It had been extensively restored after a crash.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at sreyburn@hotmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

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