Vibrant Color Plates and More at Forum Auctions

Wide selections of antiquarian books with stunning color plates arrive at auction.
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Souvenirs de Rio de Janeiro showcases vivid coloring (£20,000–30,000). 

Well-regarded for its expertise in all categories of works on paper, Forum Auctions is bringing an exceptional range of antiquarian books to auction in September 2022. This upcoming sale, titled Fine Books, Manuscripts, and Works on Paper, includes examples with vivid color plates from the fields of travel, natural history, and landscape gardening.

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Etched plate from Les Pigeons Volume 1, first edition (£5,000–7,000).

One work up for auction is a first edition of Humphry Repton’s Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening from 1795 featuring 16 fine aquatint plates—10 of which are hand-colored, six uncolored. This copy of the work (estimated £10,000–15,000) is enhanced by the inclusion of the original drawing, signed “H. Repton” in the lower right within the original wash border, of plate VIII.

“This is an exceptional copy of the rarest of Repton’s landscape books,” said Rupert Powell, deputy chairman and head of books at Forum Auctions. “Only 250 copies were printed, and Repton refused to issue a second edition, although some of the chapters were re-used in ‘Observations’ and ‘Fragments.’”

A first edition of Pauline Knip and Coenraad Jacob Temminck’s Les Pigeons Volume 1 (estimated £5,000–7,000) will join this rare title at auction. This volume includes 87 etched plates partly printed in color and finished by hand by César Macret after Knip. Les Pigeons is considered to be the best and most famous monograph on pigeons and doves.

Another highlight of September’s sale is a complete first edition of William Gilbert’s De Magnete in original condition (estimated £10,000–15,000). Published in 1600, this is known as the first truly modern scientific book published in England. Theorizing that the Earth was a giant magnet, Gilbert worked out the variation and declination of the compass, distinguished magnetic mass from weight, and was the first person to use the term “electricity.” De Magnete would go on to influence Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, becoming one of the foundational works of modern physics.

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A first edition of Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening includes an original drawing (£10,000–15,000).

Also uniquely noteworthy is a copy of Johan Jacob Steinmann’s Souvenirs de Rio de Janeiro from the 1830s (estimated £20,000–30,000). This work contains a series of exceptionally fine hand-colored aquatint plates extensively heightened with gum arabic, all mounted on the same brown paper.

“This is a stunning suite of Brazilian views with the most exceptional quality of coloring,” Powell said. “Few copies have appeared at auction, and the date appears to vary from 1835 to this, of 1837.”

Forum Auctions will feature these and a variety of other antiquarian books in their sale on September 29, 2022, live and in-person in London.