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Two 160-Year-Old Books of Classical Poetry Annotated by Herman Melville Sell for Over $106,000

Herman Melville, two volumes of classical poetry, one signed, both annotated throughout,
(ca. 1860) (image courtesy Swann Galleries)

Swann Galleries has sold a set of two books featuring the scrawled marginalia of Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. The books are two volumes of classical poetry, one of which was signed by Melville. Both are heavily annotated in the author’s loopy handwriting, paragraph symbols, and other markings. The books are copies of Juvenal and Persius’ The Satires and EuripidesThe Tragedies, vol. III — both purchased in 1859 as part of a 37-volume set, Classical Library, published by Harper and Brothers (the progenitor of modern-day publisher Harper, of HarperCollins). The two books sold for $106,250, while the full sale raked in $1,011,799 in receipts.

The Design Museum in London has secured a £3 million loan in the wake of a dire financial situation. The numbers in the red come from a report commissioned in March of this year; museum attendance apparently fell by 16.5% last year and paying visitors dipped by 20%. The report laid the blame at “specialist” programming, and in its wake the Conran Foundation  — the charity of the museum’s founder, Terence Conran — saved it with the donation.

Japanese architect Junya Ishigami’s Art Biotop Water Garden has just won the inaugural Obel Award — a pot of €100,000 (~$111,047.00). Given by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, the Obel is one of the world’s richest architecture prizes and is awarded to recent projects that offer “seminal solutions to urgent problems.”

Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World sale brought in £3,255,000 (~$4,197,208) in sales of centuries-old Qur’an leaves, Arabic manuscripts, and more. One of the most impressive pieces was the Indian gouache, “An Illustration to the Bhagavata Purana: Kamsa Attacks Devaki During Her Wedding Procession” (1780) — attributed to a master of the first generation after Nainsukh. It sold for £225,000 (~$288,855). Similarly, Sotheby’s sale of the Shakerine Collection: Calligraphy in Qur’ans and other Manuscripts topped out at £2,223,250 (~$2,866,803).

Sotheby’s Wedgewood and Beyond: English Ceramics from the Starr Collection topped out at $1,702,750, moving scores of examples of fine porcelain and sculpture from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sotheby’s Important Works from the Najd Collection sale closed at a whopping final receipt of £33,465,400 (~$43,152,462). The top lot of the bunch was Osman Hamdy Bey’s “Koranic Instruction” (1890), which sold for £4,640,100 (~$5,957,285).

Sotheby’s European Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture racked up a final sales ticket of $1,694,000 between its 159 lots. The top of the bunch was Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña’s “La Mare Aux Fées” (1868), an oil painting of an eerie wooded forest that sold for $118,750.

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