December 2020 | Jeremy Dibbell

Rare Books &c. at Auction This Week

Image: Bonhams

Fly's eye engraving from Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665), offered at Bonhams New York this week.

Here are some of the auctions I'll be watching this week:

The Otto Penzler Collection of Mystery Fiction, Part IV at Heritage Auctions is ongoing, and ends on Monday, December 7. The 1,061 lots include a huge range of mystery titles, as have the other sales from Penzler's collection.

At Bellmans on Tuesday, December 8: Printed Books, Maps and Manuscripts including Fine Bindings and Science Books from the Collection of Peter and Margarethe Braune part II. About two hundred lots, including some binding shelf lots, with most estimates in the three-to-low-four-figure range.

Sotheby's London will sell 221 lots of English Literature, History, Science, Children's Books and Illustrations in an online sale ending on Tuesday. Three fire-damaged leaves of Isaac Newton autograph notes on the Great Pyramid are expected to lead the way, at £280,000–400,000. A very rare copy of Charles Darwin's first separately published work, Extracts of Letters addressed to Professor Henslow (1836), recounting the naturalist's discoveries during the Beagle voyage, could fetch £70,000–90,000. A 15th-century English illuminated manuscript of James of Milan's The Prickyng of Love, copied by the scribe Stephen Dodesham, is estimated at £60,000–80,000. A typescript with autograph corrections of Kim Philby's early memoirs—mostly unpublished—could sell for £15,000–20,000.

On Wednesday, December 9, Valuable Books and Manuscripts at Christie's London, in 289 lots. The Lamoignon copy of the Oudry La Fontaine (Paris, 1755–1759), from the most deluxe issue and bound by Pierre Anguerrand, the French royal binder, is estimated at £70,000–100,000. Two miniatures from the 13th-century Burckhardt-Wilde Apocalypse could sell for £50,000–80,000; the same estimate has been assigned to a late 15th-century Bruges Book of Hours (use of Rome) and the 1491 Vicenza second edition of Euclid's Elementa Geometriae. The first set of Otto Ege's Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts, last on the market four decades ago, could sell for £40,000–60,000. A second edition of Vesalius (1555) with impressive provenance and some early annotation, is estimated at £35,000–50,000. Maria Sibylla Merian's Erucarum Ortis (1718), the first Latin edition of her Raupenbuch, could fetch £30,000–40,000. Many other fascinating lots in this sale, including an Elizabeth I royal binding.

Rounding out Wednesday's auctions is the Christmas Rare Book Sale at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, in 321 lots.

Bonhams New York will sell Highlights from the Medical Library of the Late James Tait Goodrich on Thursday, December 10, in 131 lots. A first issue of Hooke's Micrographia (1665) and another second edition Vesalius share the top estimate at $40,000–60,000. And those two names combine in another highlight from this sale: Hooke's own copy of the 1568 third illustrated edition of Vesalius is estimated at $30,000–40,000.

On Thursday afternoon, it's 500 lots of Comics at PBA Galleries, with a lot of $30 starting bids. At the other end, the original art for the second page of Jack Kirby's Journey into Mystery #106 "Tales of Asgard" backup feature, "Balder the Brave," is estimated at $10,000–12,000.

And finally, on Friday, December 11 Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams New York, in 298 lots. A Latin Nuremberg Chronicle, with contemporary hand-coloring and in the first binding by the Weltchronik-Meister, is estimated at $200,000–300,000. A mid-12th-century Italian copy of Augustine's Confessiones previously owned by Guglielmo Libri, Henry Stevens, and Sir Thomas Phillipps, likely the earliest Augustine manuscript still in private hands, is estimated at $100,000–150,000. A 1964 Malcolm X letter from Mecca during his Hajj could sell for $40,000–60,000, and a signed copy of the 1955 South Africa Freedom Charter is estimated at $30,000–50,000. There will be much of interest to the Dickens collector in this sale, too.