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  • Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book valued at $150,000 in Sotheby's auction
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • BookGardner'sPhotographicSketch

Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book valued at $150,000 in Sotheby's auction

Alexander Gardner's definitive Photographic Sketch Book of the War is one of the star lots in Sotheby's New York Photographs auction, set for April 2.


Never before had the true nature of war been so realistically documented


The book is a landmark in photographic history, providing a real look at the US civil war at a time when the medium was in its infancy. With 100 albumen prints inside, the book will sell for $100,000-150,000.

In November 2013, a first edition of the work sold for $192,000 at Skinner, making a 13% increase on estimate.

Sketches of battle scenes appeared in Harper's Weekly throughout the US civil war (1861-1865), but Gardner's photographs were a stark realisation of the extent of the conflict, brought about by new advancements in photography.

Early photographic historian Beaumont Newhall wrote: "Gardner's dead sharpshooter, his long rifle gleaming by his side, is not imagined. This man lived; this is the spot where he fell; this is how he looked in death. 

"There lies the great psychological difference between photography and the graphic arts."

Offered at auction is a two-volume edition of the work, printed in oblong folio format and bound in gilt-lettered morocco. A recent census of existing copies states that just 73 have survived, 51 of which are preserved in institutional collections.

Also featuring in the sale is a fantastic portrait of the Apache leader Geronimo, which was taken by Edward S Curtis but not published in his famous photobook, The North American Indian. A rare print, it is believed that just two others have been offered at auction, warranting the $60,000-90,000 estimate.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a strand of hair from Geronimo for sale, which originates from the collection of the wife of Ulysses S Grant's attorney general, Margaretta Pierrepont, who once owned the largest collection of historical hair in the world.

  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • BookGardner'sPhotographicSketch