The Graham Arader Sale: An auction of rare prints, maps, and books with a charitable twist

Editorial Staff Art

On Friday June 19 Sotheby’s New York will offer a special single-owner auction, The Graham Arader Sale, which comprises 202 lots of rare prints, books, maps, and paintings that document European and American history from the 16th through the 19th centuries. W. Graham Arader III has been a dealer of this material for thirty-seven years. With galleries located in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Denver, and Houston—and inventory of more than 20,000 items—he is an established leader in his field.

The upcoming auction presents a unique opportunity for collectors to acquire some outstanding works, and to direct 20% of the hammer price to the charity of the buyer’s choice. The sale is divided into ten distinct categories: Pierre Joseph Redouté; John James Audubon; the natural history of the South; icons of American cartography; atlases, cartography, and navigation; the Expanding American Frontier; the Near and Middle East; Edward Lear; natural history; and European and American paintings. Here we’ve assembled a slideshow of some highlights from the sale. We also recently spoke with Arader, who shared with us his passion for prints.

How did you begin collecting prints, maps, and books?
It started with a collection of maps related to the early exploration, settlement, and founding of Pennsylvania that I saw when I was a student at Yale. It got me hooked. I started doing research on them and I never stopped. It helped me learn a great deal about the history of the colonies in the 18th century. The staff in the history department at Yale were a great resource.

In collecting this material how much research do you do and what do you recommend for new collectors?
A lot. I consider myself a historian more than an expert on aesthetics. I have a 50,000-volume reference library, so I am constantly reading, and I support all kinds of historical societies, universities, and museums where I do my research. I recommend that those getting started in collecting buy reference books for the first year. Join local historical societies and museums; visit the experts there and ask them for advice.

Is there in area of print collecting that you are most drawn to?
I like the aquatints that were made in Paris and London between 1790 and 1830—Audubon’s birds and Bodmer’s Indians. I love them. I think they are just really beautiful prints. They have a three-dimensional quality, and are very rich and beautifully colored. They show a world that is now lost.

What have you observed about the current market for print collecting?
The market for the top 1% is up 25%, and the market for the bottom 70% is off by 60%. So if you buy the best you’ll do great, but second-rate material is way, way off. As far as specific areas of collecting, interest in Audubon, as well as Native American material, has been unbelievable.

What advice do you have for how to care for prints?
Framing is immensely important. You can really ruin something if you don’t frame it properly. We are the largest framers in the world, we makes frame for all of our things in order to protect them—framing something properly is never cost prohibitive whether the work is question is worth $100 or $100,000.

In your upcoming auction you are offering buyers the opportunity to direct 20% of the hammer price to the charity of their choice. What prompted you to do this?
I would like to get collectors, and also especially dealers, involved in charitable giving. I hope that if this sale does well it will encourage other dealers to get involved with charitable giving to a much greater extent.

One of my favorite charities is the East Side Settlement House, which is supported by the Winter Antiques Show, and which I have participated in for over 35 years. They offer educational and professional development programs working with kids and young people in the Bronx, and I believe outreach with more than thirty-two facilities. John Sanchez, who is the director, is an amazingly talented guy, and it is a very successful organization. How can you not be attracted to a partnership like that?