Past Auction

The Nelson Doubleday, Jr. Collection

Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 10am EST |
New York
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  • Sale of The Nelson Doubleday, Jr. Collection on January, 11, 2017
  • President of Doubleday and Company Publishers and Owner of the New York Mets Baseball Team
  • The Contents of the Gracious Doubleday Home on Long Island's North Shore, Including Mr. Doubleday's Library, Paintings, Furniture, Decorations and Sports Memorabilia

Doyle began the 2017 auction season with the successful sale of The Nelson Doubleday, Jr. Collection on Wednesday, January 11. Nelson Doubleday, Jr. (1933-2015) was the third-generation owner of legendary publishers Doubleday and Company and the former owner of the New York Mets baseball team. The sale comprised the contents of his gracious home on Long Island’s North Shore, including his library, paintings, furniture, decorations and sports memorabilia.

With competitive international bidding from the salesroom, the telephones and the Internet, the sale totaled $2,414,176 with an exceptional 96% sold by lot and 99% sold by value.


Doubleday was an avid yachtsman, and a feature of the sale was his collection of fine American and English nautical paintings. Yacht Racing Off Sandy Hook by James Buttersworth (1817-1894) captured the drama of the annual regatta of the New York Yacht Club in June 1877. The painting depicted the sole victory of the Active and was likely commissioned by her skipper, Frank W. J. Hurst, a long-time treasurer of the Club. The top lot of the day, the painting achieved $348,500, exceeding its estimate of $200,000-300,000.

A charming, diminutive beach scene by French artist Eugene Boudin (1824-1898), Trouville, Scene de Plage, and a masterful marine painting by English artist Montague Dawson (1890-1973), Two Clippers – Nocturne, also performed strongly, each selling for $262,500 against their respective estimates of $100,000-250,000 and $150,000-300,000.     

A 1747 painting in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, entitled The ‘St. Albans’ Floated out at Deptford by John Cleveley the Elder depicts an almost identical scene to a large-scale work offered in the sale. Although the Doubleday painting bears the signature “Wllm. Pratt” and the date 1750, it has many similarities to works by Cleveley. The painting could depict the launch of the St. Albans, or it could very well celebrate the launch of another ship. The docks at Deptford were a common subject for Cleveley, and the vantage point seen here was one the artist used with frequency when commemorating the launch of a new ship. Trained in the family business of joinery, Cleveley set up shop in Deptford as a shipwright around 1742. A few years later he began painting ship portraits, launches and the depiction of ships in the midst of construction. Mostly a self-taught artist, his knowledge of the construction of ships allowed him to execute, in fine detail and with some artistic license, pictures documenting an important period in the history of English shipbuilding. The painting attracted much attention during the exhibition and auction, with competition from determined bidders on both sides of the Atlantic sending it soaring past its estimate to achieve $250,000.

Sports Memorabilia

Highlighting the sports memorabilia was Nelson Doubleday, Jr.’s National League Championship ring presented upon the Mets’ heartbreaking loss to the crosstown rival Yankees in the famous Subway Series of 2000, which fetched $13,750 against an estimate of $8,000-12,000.

The Doubleday Library

Offerings from the Doubleday library featured a rare single leaf from that early masterwork of printing, the Gutenberg Bible, from 1450-55, which sold for $62,500 against an estimate of $40,000-60,000. An important George Washington letter from 1776 demanding that the citizens of New York stop supplying British ships of war in New York harbor fetched $53,125 against an estimate of $40,000-60,000. Strong prices were also achieved for special limited editions by William Morris, Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling.

Furniture & Decorative Arts

Among the other offerings were Georgian furniture, mirrors, decorations, silver and early 19th century English and Chinese export porcelain. A pair of circa 1755 George II giltwood pier mirrors in the Collection reflected the evolution from the Rococo and 'Gothick' motifs of the mid-18th century to the symmetrical neoclassical designs of the late 1750s and 1760s. Related to similar examples by John Linnell and designs by Thomas Chippendale, the mirrors achieved $75,000, more than doubling their estimate of $25,000-35,000.

Nelson Doubleday, Jr. (1933-2015)

Nelson Doubleday, Jr. lived for much of his life in Oyster Bay and Locust Valley on Long Island’s storied North Shore. He was educated at Deerfield Academy and Princeton University, and enlisted in the Air Force in 1955, before returning home to join the family publishing empire, by then known as Doubleday and Company, of which he became president and chief executive in 1978. Focusing on other endeavors, he sold the company in 1986, a year that would prove fortuitous for many reasons.

Doubleday Publishing was founded in 1897 by Nelson, Jr.’s grandfather, Frank Nelson Doubleday, affectionately known as "Effendi" among his literary coterie, a play on his initials as well as a Near Eastern title of respect for an erudite man. F.N. Doubleday began his illustrious and lengthy career working at Charles Scribner’s Sons at the age of 14. His first publishing venture, named the Doubleday and McClure Company for his early merger with the magazine magnate Samuel Sidney McClure, was renamed Doubleday, Page & Company in 1900 for his meaningful partnership with Walter Hines Page, the well-respected editor of The Atlantic Monthly. At this time, the company made the bold move to leave Manhattan and build a state-of-the-art facility in Garden City, Long Island.  After Page's death in 1918, the company was again renamed, this time Doubleday, Doran for its acquisition of that major New York publishing house in 1927. Ultimately, after the War, the imprint settled on its final name: Doubleday and Company.

The publishing house was known for bringing the living masters of English literature to America, and Nelson Doubleday, Jr.'s library contains many of the special presentation copies of the books his grandfather published under the family imprint. Those authors became personal friends and were a frequent presence in both the publishing house in Garden City and at the family estate in Oyster Bay. Doubleday Publishing brought the World War I poetry of Rudyard Kipling, the sea-faring novels of Joseph Conrad, the musings of W. Somerset Maugham, and the desert wandering of T.E. Lawrence into the American consciousness in that heady period between the Wars. His son carried the company forward printing important post-War works, such as Dwight Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe, issued with a signed copy of the D-Day Order inserted into the deluxe edition. The most prosperous publishing house of its day, Doubleday was recognized worldwide and was particularly beloved in its home city of New York.

After selling the company in 1986, Nelson Doubleday, Jr. became majority owner of the New York Mets, his family having acquired their initial stake in the last place team in 1980 from the Whitney family, the team’s original owner. The World Series-winning 1986 New York Mets team is one of the games' most storied, with scrappy play, scrappier players, and a game six miracle win against the favored Boston Red Sox that ignited the entire city of New York. A fixture in the owner's box, Nelson Doubleday, Jr. stood by the team through thick and thin in subsequent years, and New York City was electrified again by the Mets vs. Yankees Subway Series of 2000.

Nelson Doubleday, Jr. was an avid yachtsmen and the owner of an important world class yacht, the 125-foot Palmer Johnson pilothouse schooner Mandalay. His love of sailing is evidenced by the splendid collection of nautical paintings that adorned his estate in Locust Valley. Like many of the grand estates on Long Island’s North Shore, the Doubleday home was graciously appointed with Georgian furniture, decorations and silver, which conveyed the air of an English country house.

W. Somerset Maugham could have had Nelson Doubleday, Jr. in mind when he wrote, "It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it." 

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