March 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Around the World in 1,500 Books

Next week at Sotheby's London, the library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, a collection encompassing 1,500 books, 350+ years, and 7 continents, begins its turn at auction. It is, writes Anthony Payne in the catalogue's introduction, "the finest private collection of English global exploration and discovery to have been formed in the last century."

Captain Cook's untitled chart of "The Great Pacific Ocean" and "South Pacific Ocean" (London: Joseph Banks, 1772) is the first printed map of Australia. Only three are extant, and this is the only one in private hands. The auction estimate is $130,000-195,000.

Captain Cook, Walter Raleigh, David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton, Charles Darwin -- these are just some of the explorers in this collection that spans 1576-1939. The March 27 sale is the first of four, with the next scheduled to be held in September, and two following in the spring of 2015. Two of the highlights of this first sale include the earliest printed map of Australia (above) and the first book printed in Alaska.

Brooke-Hitching, 72, has been collecting for more than 40 years, and as a banker-turned-bookseller, only bought the best. From all accounts, he is a meticulous and persistent collector -- his fine bindings are in the best condition, and many of the books are unique or rare presentation copies. This auction is one for the ages!

Image via Sotheby's.