“The War Between the United States and Mexico, Illustrated” Color Plate Book

Value (2005) | $35,000 Auction$50,000 Auction

GUEST:
This is a book about the war between the United States and Mexico. I bought the book because I love history, and it has beautiful pictures in it. I actually knew about the prints in the book, and I had bought two of these prints from a print shop in Dallas many years ago. And then when I saw the book, then I thought, "Oh, good, now I'll have 12 more prints, and I can make a nice wall hanging." And then after I got the book home and I saw how exquisite the pictures were and the beautiful text, I simply couldn't butcher the book. And so I've kept it like this ever since. And essentially, I've had it in a closet.

APPRAISER:
How long have you had it?

GUEST:
I've had it for at least 15 years. I bought the book from an estate, and the dealer had a particular price on it, and he and I negotiated a price. And he was a very nice man. He let me pay off in time. And Christmas came one year and my husband said, "You know, I don't have a present for you for Christmas." And I said, "Oh, I know what you can do. You can go pay off my debt, the balance." That's how I got the book.

APPRAISER:
So you got debt-free for Christmas.

GUEST:
Absolutely, absolutely.

APPRAISER:
Can I ask how much you paid?

GUEST:
$4,000.

APPRAISER:
$4,000. Well, the book, as you know, is entitled "The War Between the United States and Mexico, Illustrated." It's by George Wilkins Kendall, who was really the first great American wartime correspondent. He went to war alongside with the soldiers. He was out there taking notes and corresponding back to his newspaper. He followed along the war from beginning to end and it was very important to him that not only were the words accurate, but so, too, were the illustrations. And you were right-- the illustrations in this book are magnificent. Carl Nebel was the artist who did the great illustrations. He also accompanied Kendall along on the journeys and the battles and did his sketches on site. They're lithographed plates. The plates were lithographed in Paris, and Paris had the greatest lithography in the world at the time. They're hand-colored, and you can see all these details are picked up with shines, and gum Arabic was used to heighten some of the parts of the illustrations for drama. Here...

GUEST:
This is my favorite picture of all.

APPRAISER:
Your favorite one. General Scott's entrance into Mexico-- the end of the war, basically. And here's Scott coming in. The plates were lithographed by the great lithographer Bayot. Between the combination of the great artist, the great text that Kendall wrote and just the beauty, the execution of the entire book, it is a magnificent creation, and I am very glad you didn't take it apart.

GUEST:
Yes, I am, too. It would have been... it would have been a desecration. I just really couldn't do it, and, uh...

APPRAISER:
It would be a terrible shame, because really to have the 12 lithograph plates from this edition taken apart would really be a shame, even though it might have made your wall look a lot nicer. Even here he says-- Kendall-- at the end of his preface, he says, "No country can claim that its battles have been illustrated in a richer, more faithful or more costly style of lithography." And it is a beautiful book.

GUEST:
It is a wonderful book.

APPRAISER:
And I have to tell you, the market, since you bought this, has made some incredible jumps, especially when it comes to color plate books, but particularly with relationship to American history.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
A copy of the book in roughly the same condition was sold at auction for $35,000.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Yes.

GUEST:
I am astonished.

APPRAISER:
Well, the binding is the original binding, the plates are all there, and really, it's in lovely condition. Insurance would be $45,000 or $50,000.

GUEST:
I am overwhelmed.

APPRAISER:
You should have a custom box made for it that it would sit in-- a folding box that would protect it from the elements. You don't want sunlight to get on it; you don't want the dryness, the heat or any extremes to bear down on this book. You want to keep it the way it is, as it's been kept.

GUEST:
I must say I'm reeling from this estimate. And it was my husband today, when I was saying I was going to the show, he said, "Well, why don't you take that Texas book?" And I thought, "Well, I know what I paid for it, so what would be the value of taking it to the show?" So I must thank him.

APPRAISER:
Well, you made my day and a lot of other people's. Really it's one of the greatest works of lithography in American book illustration, so it's really spectacular.

GUEST:
I am overwhelmed. Thank you so much. I'm astonished.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, NY
Appraised value (2005)
$35,000 Auction$50,000 Auction
Event
Houston, TX (July 16, 2005)
Period
19th Century
Form
Book
Material
Paper

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