Auctions | May 22, 2014

Auction Record for a 1471 Account of the Life of Alexander the Great at Swann Galleries


New York—Swann Galleries’ auction of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books on May 1 offered scarce examples of incunabula, books on anatomy by Vesalius and others, Homer’s Works in the original Greek and more.

The sale’s top-selling lot—which set a new auction record—was Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni, first edition of a first century A.D. account of the life and exploits of Alexander the Great, Venice, 1471 for $55,000*.

Another featured example of incunabula was Johannes de Gaaddesden, Rosa anglica practica medicinae, 1492, the first printed medical treatise by an English author, bound with Bernardus de Gordonio, De urinis et de pulsibus, 1487, which deals with uroscopy and pulse reading as diagnostic tools, $22,500.

Andreas Vesalius.jpg

Also among the top medical texts in the auction were several Andreas Vesalius titles, such as Compendiosa totius anatomie delineation, first edition of the first Vesalian piracy, London, 1545, $50,000; De humani corporis fabrica, lib. VII, second edition, Lyon, 1552, $32,500; Anatomia, John Evelyn’s copy of the fifth edition of the fabrica, Venice, 1604, $15,000; and Anatomes totius, aere insculpta delineation, first edition, Paris, 1564, $8,750.

There was also a first German edition of an important pre-Vesalian anatomical textbook, Giacomo Berengario da Carpi, Isagogae breves et exactissimae in anatomiam humani corporis, Strassburg, 1530, which sold for $30,000.

Rounding out the medical highlights were Paolo Mascagni, Anatomia Universale, Florence, 1833, $11,875; Chirurgia è Graeco in Latinum conversa . . ., first edition of Guido Guidi’s Latin translation of a 10th-century manuscript of Greek writings, Paris, 1544, $10,000; John Browne, Myographia Nova; or, a Graphical Description of All the Muscles in the Humane Body, as they arise in Dissection, first edition, London, 1697, $9,375 and Walther Hermann Ryff, Die kleiner Ciurgi . . ., second edition, Strassburg, 1551, $8,750.

Scientific works of note included Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, first edition, London, 1859, $18,750 and Adam Ludwig Wirsing, Marmora et adfines aliquos lapides colorbus suis . . . A Representation of Different Sort of Marble . . ., Amsterdam, 1776, $15,000.

From a selection of books on travel and geography were José Andia y Varela, Relacio del Viage hecho a la Isla de Otahiti. . ., manuscript in Spanish, an early transcription of an account of an expedition from Peru to Tahiti in the early 1770s, as part of the later abandoned colonization effort by Spain, circa 1800, $8,125 and William Price, Journal of the British Embassy to Persia . . . also, A Dissertation upon the Antiquities of Persepolis . . . Second Edition, London, 1832, $7,750.

Homer’s Works, first edition in the original Greek published outside of Italy, from the press of scholar-printer Thierry Martens, who pioneered the printing of Greek in the Low Countries, Louvain, 1523, sold for $20,000.

A first Foulis folio edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Glasgow, 1770, bound by James Scott of Edinburgh, brought $13,750; while a Foulis edition of Plato’s The Republic, first edition in English, Glasgow, 1763, brought $7,424.

Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, first edition, London, 1755, brought $7,680 and Plato’s Opera quae extant Omnia, first complete edition, Geneva, 1578, $6,750.

An illustrated catalogue, with complete prices realized, is available for $35 from Swann Auction Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at

For further information, and to consign to upcoming auctions of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books, please contact Tobias Abeloff at 212-254-4710, extension 18, or

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni, first edition, Venice, 1471. Sold for a record $55,000 (including buyer's premium).

Second image: Andreas Vesalius, Compendiosa totius anatomie delineation, first edition of the first Vesalian piracy, London, 1545. Sold for $50,000 (including buyer's premium).