The private collection of
a renowned dealer and scholar of antiquarian books who died in 2018, will be offered across a series of sales at Christie’s starting in May.
Comprising approximately 700 lots running from historic printing, fine art, to color-plate books, the entire collection has a presale estimate of between US$12 million to U$18 million, according to Christie’s.
Reese (1955-2018) was the foremost scholar, dealer, and collector of American rare books, according to the auction house. In 1979, he founded the eponymous William Reese Company in New Haven, Conn., adjacent to Yale University, where he graduated in 1973. He became an expert in rare books and Americana, with fields of interest spanning from natural history, government and politics, travel, exploration, literature, to color-plate books.
His private collection is among the most valuable sales of printed Americana in more than 50 years, according to Christie’s. Highlights were unveiled to the public on Thursday during Christie’s Americana Week running through Jan. 28, marking the first time in 30 years that any portion of the current collection has been publicly exhibited, Christie’s said.
“The books and artwork so clearly embody Bill’s passion for history, evidenced in both written and visual culture,”
head of department of books and manuscripts at Christie’s New York, said in a news release Thursday, “The library was a special place of both sanctuary and adventure, of intellectual rigor and humor, of grandeur and approachability—all these elements held in exquisite balance with exceptional taste.”
Highlighting the collection is one of only six recorded copies of one of the earliest contemporary broadside editions of the Declaration of Independence, and possibly the first edition printed in New England, according to Christie’s. Four of the six copies known to exist are held in institutions holdings including Georgetown University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Peabody Essex Museum.
The copy from the Reese Collection has a presale estimate of between US$1 million and US$1.5 million.
Other rare historic documents represented include
engraving The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated In King Street, Boston, On March 5th 1770, By Party Of The 29th Reg. Boston from March 1770, with a presale estimate of between US$250,000 and US$350,000; a special first edition copy of Lewis and
History of the Expedition by
in 1814, with a low estimate of US$100,000; and
A Front View of Yale-College and The College Chapel, New-Haven, 1786, with a low estimate of US$70,000;
Illustrated and color illustrated books offered for sale include Illustrated Notes of an Expedition through Mexico and California by
John Woodhouse Audubon
Henry James Warre’s
Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory; and
Wall’s Hudson River Portfolio, which is the first complete copy of the first issue to appear at auction since 1948.
The collection will be offered in a series of live and online-only auctions in New York beginning May 25.