Christie's auction of ET rare books: what's going on
"Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte," auction at Christie's, Rockefeller Center, New York City, December 2,
2010. About 200 rare books, including major works in the history of science, statistical graphics, 20th-century artists books,
ET artworks, Sidereus Nuncius (1610), Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499).
Christie's electronic catalogue
here, then click on slideshow
or ecatalogue. Three of my artworks will also be at the auction (see below).
What's Going On
My library was always working library, with the rare books beside my computer as I was writing. But in the last few years, the books were viewed only when a visitor requested a look at the Galileo, Playfair, or Picasso books, or when I took a nostalgic look in the library. Furthermore, the important
books in my library are the unread books. My introduction to the Christie's catalog explains exactly what I'm thinking about
in doing the auction. In particular, note the second to last paragraph. And I am in excellent health, delighted with new
adventures in Washington, DC and New York City, and fortunate to be a working and exhibiting artist.
Great books foster, transmit, and preserve forever knowledge. The books in my research library were
always meant to be used: read, skimmed, read aloud, exhibited, photographed, scanned, shared, treasured. And thus my library,
which I thought of as The Museum of Cognitive Art, participated intensely in my research, scholarship, writing, teaching, design,
artwork. For 30 years, the workaday presence of these wonderful books in my life was inspiring and challenging.
I always sought to write, design, and publish books worthy of my research library: The Visual Display of Quantitative
Information (1983, 2001), Envisioning Information (1990), Visual Explanations (1997), and Beautiful
The collection articulated my interests and needs in making my books about analytical thinking, seeing, showing: high science
(Galileo, Huygens, Newton, Lambert), high art (Durer, Dufy, Picasso, Ernst, Derain, Albers), practical science (history of perspective,
dance notation, magic, aviation, landscape architecture especially Repton), the history of statistical graphics (nearly all of William
Playfair's books, Marey, Minard), epidemiology (Graunt, Snow), mapping (Halley, Minard), illustrated books (fish, birds, and
whatever), and the classics of book design (Hypnerotomachia, Byrnes' color Euclid, Eric Gill, Bruce Rogers, John Henry Nash, and
books published by Giovanni Mardersteig's Officina Bodoni press). Their time past become my time present and time future.
This diverse and quirky collection found a deep unity in my own books. The relation between my work and the research library is
shown directly in many catalog entries.
With this auction, my research library will gradually turn into open-space land in perpetuity for making and exhibiting
landscape sculpture Storm-King style, and also into my museum and gallery, ET Modern, in New York's Chelsea art district.
Of course, there's another book (Seeing Around, 2013) underway as well. There always is.
I am giving 4 lectures in New York City about the rare books in my books:
Edward Tufte lecture, "Rare Books and Their Relation to My Books" At ET Modern (547 West 20th Street, corner of 11th Avenue), ET will show special rare books from his library
auctioned at Christie's on December 2, 2010. He will discuss how those books participated in creating
his own books. These historic, beautiful, rare, important books on show include:
Messenger (1610), Hypnerotomachia (1499), Durer on measurement (1532), Cousin on perspective
Bayer's first accurate star atlas (1603), Playfair on statistical graphics (1785), and two of Picasso's artists books.
Free lecture at ET Modern on Thursday November 18 at 7.00pm, and again on Friday November 19 at 2.00pm.
lecture at Christie's (where all 200 books will be on view) on Monday November 29 at 2.00pm
and again on Tuesday
November 30 at 2.00pm.
Check the homepage for updates.
There are six large pieces of flat art in the auction: a grand Halley map, the Cyclogram, and three ET graphic artworks.
-- Edward Tufte
Will video of these lectures be available?
Any chance that a video capture of the lectures will be made available to those of us unable to attend? I'm sure many of
us would love the opportunity to hear ET's perspective on these books and on building a personal research library.
On a side note, the only time I felt like I'd really like to earn more (being until then content with my lifestyle) was during
ET's San Francisco course, when he showed around his first editions of Galileo and Newton.
-- Jose C Silva (email)
When I took your one-day course about 9 years ago, I had certain expectations about what would be covered and how it would be taught. I was caught off guard when 10 minutes into the lecture, a trio of white-gloved assistants in the aisles were shadowing what was on the slide projector, with original editions of what was being discussed! I think the first book was a Principia Mathematica. 9 years later, that lecture technique has stayed with me longer than any other details of the course.
I just hope that you are keeping at least a couple of your treasures. Otherwise, what will future students have to look forward to:)
-- Tom K (email)
Cyclogram prints - will they still be available?
Will Graphic Press still sell prints of the Cyclogram, once the original is auctioned? I have a print myself, but was
planning to buy some for xmas gifts for friends (my friends are nerds, yes, and they already have Napoleon's March) at
the location of the San Francisco seminars.
Note from Graphics Press: yes we will contine to sell the Cyclogram poster.
-- Jose C Silva (email)