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Surf's Up at Bonhams & Butterfields

| posted on October 09, 2009

Exceptional Collection of Surfing History and Memorabilia on the Auction Block

Fine arts auctioneer Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to offer Fine Books & Manuscripts auction on October 19, 2009. Included within the 525-lot sale is an amazing selection of surfing history and artifacts? from the Collection of Mark Blackburn, Honolulu, Hawaii. The collection covers the history of surfing from the wave-riding of the indigenous Hawaiian people through the fiberglass boarding of the present day.

Highlighting the offerings are the mammoth signed framed handprints of the legendary Godfather of surfing Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (est. $8,000-12,000). The “Duke” was an iconic figure in the sport for many years and powered himself to several record breaking swimming victories in the Olympics of 1912 and 1920 with his strong hands. Able to paddle quickly, the “Duke” is famed for riding a wave for over one mile at Waikiki Beach in 1929 – the longest ride ever recorded to date. The handprints show that his hands measured a staggering 9-inches long and 6-inches wide each.

Featured highlights from the Collection include a letter and early black woolen “Bathing costume” from early hot-dogger John “Hawkshaw” Paia, known for his unique ability to play the ukulele while surfing ($1,000-2,000), and a “passport-style” invitation, embroidered patch and signed poster commemorating big-wave pioneer Rick Grigg’s participation in the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surf Championship which he won in 1967, conquering the North Shore of Hawaii (est. $2,000-3,000). The auction also includes an archive of California surfing history, featuring photographs, letters and printed items from sporting greats Bruce Brown, Doc Ball and Lance Carson.

An incredibly rare first edition of the 1931 surfing text The Art of Wave Riding, inscribed by the author Ronald Blake Drummond, is expected to make in excess of $500. It was published several years before Tom Blake’s The Hawaiian Surfboard, the first definitive book on the subject; a presentation copy of the first edition of that work is also included in the sale (est. $3,000-5,000).

From the early 1800s, the Collection also features one of the earliest known depictions of a surfboard – an engraving titled Habitations, c. 1830 – which is being sold with another engraving titled the Hawaiian Sport of Surf Playing, from the 1836 edition of William Ellis’ Polynesian Researches (est. $200-300, for the pair).
Additional items of note from the fall sale include two remarkable documents dating from the birth of the State of California will also be featured during the fall sale: The first is a registrar leaf from the 1849 California State Constitutional Convention signed and inscribed by 46 members of the delegation. Signatures include those of Henry W. Halleck who would later serve as a Union general in the Civil War; Robert Semple, president of the Convention; and John Sutter, owner of the land where gold was first discovered in California. Each leaf includes the signatures, place of birth, residence, and age of each Delegate “convened in general Convention on the 1st day of September 1849 “at Monterey, to frame a State Constitution for California.”
The documents have descended together through an old California family with ties to the Santa Clara valley region. The pair is expected to bring $10,000-15,000 on October 19th. Public previews for the documents in both Los Angeles and New York are timed to coincide with the 160th anniversary of the Convention.

The October sale also boasts an archive of rare correspondence and black and white photographs related to the personal life of Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne, his wife, and his son Christopher Robin. Contents of note include three charming letters written by Christopher Robin, the earliest at age nine, and six rare snapshots dating from 1928-1930 capturing images of the Milnes at home, including two rare pictures of Christopher Robin with his beloved Winnie-the-Pooh bear (est. $3,000-5,000).

Catch the wave at Bonhams & Butterfields!

Previews: September 9-11, 2009, New York; October 16-18, Los Angeles

Auction: October 19, 2009, Los Angeles, simulcast to Bonhams New York