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Rare Book Collection Opens A New Chapter For Bidders at Ahlers & Ogletree February 7th-9th Auction

by | Feb 1, 2024

Rare Books

The Rare Books & Important Documents Auction will be held February 7th – 9th at Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery in Atlanta, GA.

*** Original article compliments of Auction Central News (ACN), published February 1st, 2024.   VIEW ARTICLE >>>

ATLANTA — To call the late Fred Bentley, Sr., a “book collector” might be the understatement of all eternity. This man, during a lifetime of collecting, managed to acquire works as diverse as a William Shakespeare Second Folio dated to 1632, an Abraham Lincoln-signed appointment document, an 1818 copy of the Declaration of Independence published by Benjamin Owen Tyler, and a first edition printing of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. All of this — and much, much more — comes together as in excess of 900 lots hit the market on Wednesday, February 7Thursday, February 8 and Friday, February 9 at Ahlers & Olgletree. The catalogs are now available for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The printed plays of William Shakespeare (1564–1616) became a hot commodity in the years just after his passing. With two major releases, the First Folio and Second Folio, the general public could acquire complete copies of his plays for reading at home, thanks to the increase in private printing businesses.

The top lot of Day 1 is an incredible rarity not often seen at auction. Bentley somehow managed to acquire a Shakespeare Second Folio, printed in 1632 by Thomas Cotes for Robert Allot, the primary investor in the venture. Examination by Dr. Eric Rasmussen of the University of Nevada, Reno confirms this to be a genuine second edition, correcting many printing errata from the original. It carries an estimate of $200,000-$250,000.

During his lifetime, Fred Bentley amassed a large collection of Charles Dickens works, and more than 150 lots appear as part of Day 1. A particularly interesting lot is a handwritten letter from Dickens to Charles Hicks (1799-1870), his printer-foreman in charge of producing The Pickwick Papers. It was released in book form in 1837 by Bradbury and Evans after having appeared as serialized stories syndicated to local newspapers. The ALS with two Dickens signatures — one in full flourish, one simply C.D. — is estimated at $1,500-$3,000.

The period after the War of 1812 was one of fierce American nationalism. American citizens sought to connect with their revolutionary recent past with flags and other expressions of patriotism. Though copies of the Declaration of Independence had been printed on July 4, 1776, widely distributed versions of the document did not emerge until the latter part of the 1810s. Two competing publishers in Philadelphia vied for those consumer dollars, but Benjamin Owen Tyler (1789-1855) made it to market first in 1818 with his version, which included reproductions of the signatures of all the original signers. Bentley acquired a copy of Tyler’s document, and it goes to the block with a $10,000-$15,000 estimate.

Another favorite of Fred Bentley was Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), popularly known by his pen name of Mark Twain. Day 3 includes more than 100 lots from Clemens, topped off by a spectacular, one of only 200 made, first edition / first printing copy of Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Dated to December 1876, the book is encased in morocco leather with gilt page edges. In generally fine condition, the book is estimated at $5,000-$7,000.