What goes into a book collection that’s worth eight figures?


In June 2018, bookseller William Reese died aged 62. Reese was best known for his work as an antiquarian bookseller and expert in the field of rare books. Upon hearing the news of his death, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale commemorated him as “an extraordinary friend and contributor to the library” and hailed his work as “a bookseller, collector, adviser and supporter”.

Later this year, Christie’s will auction Reese’s private collection via a series of events scheduled between May and September. The auction house’s announcement notes that the sale will include 700 lots, with an estimated value of between $12 million and $18 million.

What exactly is going on in a collection of books like this? Christie’s notes that the full content will be revealed during their Americana Week, which will run until January 28. But the information they’ve released so far offers some tantalizing insights for bibliophiles and history buffs.

Arguably the highlight of the auction is an early large-format copy of the Declaration of Independence, which is estimated to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million. A New York Times item on the auction offers more details, including that rare works by John James Audubon and Herman Melville will also be up for sale.

The copy of the Declaration of Independence will not be the only item available from the 1770s. An engraving by Paul Revere, titled The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston, on March 5, 1770, by the party of the 29th Reg. Boston, was also part of Reese’s collection. All told, this is a fascinating collection of works by one of the most highly regarded collectors of our time.


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