How much are my art books worth?

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Mearto Specialist:

Anne M.

Anne has been providing collectors with fine art appraisals and authentication research for the last 10 years. She specializes in the identification of forgeries and has worked alongside some of the world's leading experts in the field of provenance research and scientific analysis. Her extensive experience includes collaborations with major museums, foundations and auction houses in Europe and the United States, ensuring the integrity of high-value transactions. As an online appraisal expert, Anne enjoys the diversity of items submitted by Mearto customers and takes pride in sharing her knowledge and passion for fine art.

Have you recently inherited or purchased an art book or catalogue raisonné and want to know its value? Mearto provides quick and affordable online appraisals of catalogues raisonnés. All you have to do is click on the “Start Appraisal” button above and follow the steps to send us information about and images of your catalogue raisonné. One of our qualified and experienced specialists will review and get back to you with a fair market and insurance value, typically within 48 hours.

Have questions about the valuation provided, or would you like some advice about selling your catalogue raisonné? We are here to help! Our platform allows you to chat back and forth with a specialist to ensure that all of your questions are answered.

What is a catalogue raisonné?

A catalogue raisonné is a comprehensive, annotated collection of all known works by a single artist. Catalogues raisonnés can be separated to encompass all works by an artist according to a particular media, for example Warhol’s prints or Dali’s etchings and mixed media prints, or all works by an artist including all media, for example Christian Zervos’s catalogue raisonne of Picasso’s works. They are usually sold as large tomes, but in recent years, some have been digitized and posted online, making updates and access easier to manage.

Details provided in the catalogues raisonnés can include all or some of the following:

  • Title and title variations
  • Dimension/Size
  • Date of the work
  • Medium
  • Current location/owner at the time of publication
  • Provenance (history of ownership)
  • Exhibition history
  • Condition of the work
  • Bibliography/Literature that discusses the work
  • Essay(s) on the artist
  • Critical assessments and remarks
  • Full description of the work
  • Signatures, inscriptions, and monograms of the artist
  • Reproduction of each work
  • List of works attributed, lost, destroyed, and fakes
  • Catalog number

Catalogues raisonnés are generally compiled for well-known artists and are often used as one of the most authoritative sources on that artist’s body of work.

Why are catalogues raisonnés important?

Catalogues raisonnés represent the official documentary record of an artist’s oeuvre. These catalogues are usually prepared by an art historian who is a recognized expert, or team of art historians (sometimes within the foundation of an artist), on the artist who is the subject of the catalogue raisonné. The inclusion of a work in the artist’s catalogue raisonné is confirmation of the work’s authenticity and, by the same token, the exclusion of a work raises questions about the work’s authenticity. Inclusion or exclusion can drastically affect the market price of a work.

Some artists' foundations that are responsible for the creation of catalogues have made the decision not to produce future catalogues for fear of lawsuits being leveled against them by discontented buyers or sellers.

Whether or not the producers of the catalogues raisonnés should be held accountable for the decision of authenticity of a work has been debated, but unique policies are often predicated by individual institutions. Further difficulties can arise when multiple catalogues raisonnés are produced on the same artist.

What are some examples of catalogues raisonnés?

One example of a rare fine art catalogue raisonné is Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue raisonné of Paintings, Drawings, and Other Works. The first edition four-volume catalogue was published by Yale University Press in 1978 and carries a price of $10,000. Christian Zervos’s catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s work, entitled Pablo Picasso par Christian Zervos, is a staggering 33 volumes compiled over 40 years and is worth $20,000.

There are many other types of art books that are not necessarily catalogues raisonnés, but that can be quite valuable. These books are usually limited editions or printings and often include original artists’ work like Lithographe; Lithographs; Vol I-VI by Joan Miro that includes 14 original color lithographs, two of which are signed by the artist. Another example would be Verve. Vol VIII, No. 29/30 the Pablo Picasso edition that includes 16 original Pablo Picasso lithographs printed by Mourlot.

Books and publications like these often fetch in the thousands of dollars.

Why are catalogues raisonnés so expensive?

Catalogues raisonnés are multi-volume, vibrantly, and fully illustrated. They generally require years to compile, including painstaking research to decipher autograph works by the artist from more dubious possibilities. Other such artist publications that fetch prices in the thousands are usually priced according to their rarity.

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