While the rare books market enjoyed a solid year, it was the manuscripts sector that saw the real fireworks, led by two famous presidents.
- George Washington's personal copy of the Acts of Congress, featuring his own annotations on the US constitution, became the most valuable American book or historic document ever sold at auction, on June 22. It sold for $9.8m, achieving a 226.6% increase on the book's $3m high valuation.
2012's leading results
- The Duke of Portland copy of John James Audubon's fine 19th century work Birds of America made $7.9m in January. Another copy currently holds the record for the most valuable book in the world, having sold for £7.3m ($11.8) in 2011.
- A signed first edition of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, one of only 12 of its kind, achieved $362,500 in April, an increase of 202% against estimate.
- A rare example of Shakespeare's Third Folio realised $374,500 at Sotheby's in May.
- One of just 26 known surviving copies of Abraham Lincoln's historic Emancipation Proclamation, signed by the president, sold for $2.1m in June.
- A new record was set for a CS Lewis book at auction, after a signed first edition presentation copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sold for £30,000 ($48,500) in July.
It was a breakout year for…
- TE Lawrence. One of 170 privately produced copies of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom from 1926, signed by the writer, sold for £50,450 ($81,500) in March, beating its £30,000 high estimate by 68.1%. Another of the 170, also signed by Lawrence, sold for £33,000 at a UK auction in May 2010. That represents a rise in value of 26.05% pa.
A year to forget for…
- Jane Austen's Emma. What is thought to be to be the last surviving first edition from a 12-strong print run failed to meet its reserve at Sotheby's in December, a considerable disappointment after the original draft of her unfinished novel, The Watsons, made £1m ($1.6m) last year.
One you may have missed
- The court indictment of Margaret Scott, convicted of witchcraft at the Salem witch trials in 1692, made $31,200 at auction in New York in March.