Rare Hawaiiana collection hits NYC auction block


POSTED: Friday, April 03, 2009

A major collection of Hawaii- and Pacific-related items will be broken up by auction Monday, although few people knew the collection existed in the first place.

It is the culmination of several decades of collecting by an anonymous Big Island enthusiast, and the auction by Bonhams New York is expected to raise at least half a million dollars.






        A sample of Items up for bid Monday at Bonhams New York, as described in the auction catalog, with price estimates:

» Ke Kumu Hawaii: Newspaper from Aug. 5, 1835. An early issue of the first newspaper to be printed in Honolulu; $500 to $800.


» ”;Hymn of Kamehameha I”;: First edition of the sheet music for “;Hawaii Ponoi,”; bearing a photo of King Kalakaua, published in San Francisco in 1874; $1,200 to $1,800.


The 260 lots include rare items such as the congressional copy of a famous 1838 South Seas expedition; a journal of Capt. James Cook's last Pacific voyage, written by a corporal aboard the Resolution; various plated medals commemorating explorations; a copy of Hawaii's first constitution; various antique globes, maps and flags; the first printed example of the Gilbertese language; a first edition of “;A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand,”; dated 1820; as well as an 1835 edition of the first newspaper to be printed in Honolulu, Ke Kumu Hawaii.

“;Anything printed in Hawaii or Polynesia in the 19th century is desirable and relatively rare,”; explained Christina Geiger, Bonhams' ephemera expert. “;The print runs would have been small. They are often small books or periodicals or fliers of an inherently ephemeral nature, and often made from lower-quality paper and subject to extremes of heat and humidity, all factors contributing to their rarity.”;

The items are expensive because so many people are interested in them, Geiger said. “;And also because of their inherent beauty, usually richly illustrated with copper-plate engravings and maps. Voyages and exploration is a very popular collecting category in the realm of rare books.

“;You don't often see such a diversity of material, spanning two centuries but all in some way related to the South Pacific or Hawaii, in one place.”;

Geiger said Hawaiiana tends to be popular with “;West Coast Americans and Asians, who have a particular interest if they've traveled there themselves, in reminiscence of their holidays.”;

Bishop Museum historian DeSoto Brown said he is interested to see whether the reserve prices will be met. “;In this economic climate, it will be interesting to see how it goes,”; he said.

Bishop Museum already has many of the same items in its own collection, Brown said. “;In some ways it's good when these large private collections get broken up, because then the artifacts often then find good homes with public access.”;


Those interested in the auction should contact Geiger at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (212) 644-9094. Browse the collection at