July 2010 | Jeremy Dibbell

Auction Report: Arcana Collection @ Christie's

[Note: For background, see my preview of this sale, here.]

The sale of the first portion of the Arcana Collection was held this afternoon at Christie's London, for a total take of £8,169,800. Results are listed here. Just eight of the 48 lots failed to sell, but three of the major pieces were among them.

Things got started pretty quickly, with Lot 2, an early German Bible (1477) beating estimates and selling for £169,250. While Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus (1473), estimated at £250,000-350,000, did not find a buyer, his Decameron, bound with Masuccio's Novellino, fetched £361,250 (again surpassing estimates). Jean Grolier's copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphilimade £313,250, and the amazing copy of Hieronymus' Epistolae (1470) fetched £937,250. A 1484 Paris edition of Ovid sold for £97,250while Pliny's Historia naturalis (Venice, 1476) made £313,250.

The Latin Nuremberg Chronicle sold for £67,250 (beating the estimates handily), and then theGerman copy (with illuminations) made an eye-popping £541,250 (estimates had it at £120,000-160,000).

The expected big-ticket items among the illuminated manuscripts didn't do much: the Abbey Bible, a fabulously-illuminated manuscript on vellum (Bologna, 1260s) and the Elizabeth de Bohun psalter/book of hours (England, 14th century), both estimated at £2 million plus, didn't sell. Nor did the Cauchon Hours.

There was a little manuscript action, though: a manuscript of Bartholomaeus Anglicus' Le livre des propriétés des choses (Paris, c. 1390), beat expectations to become the top seller of today's sale, reaching £1,105,250. An illuminated triptych on vellum over wood panels (Bruges, c. 1540) made £241,250, as did a pair of French books of hours from around the 1460s (Lots 36 and 37). A French manuscript of Ovid's Heroides (Paris, c. 1493), with lovely miniatures, made £601,250 (within the estimate range). And the Hours of François I fetched £337,250 (on estimates of £300,000-500,000).

Overall, not bad, but not a good day for the headliners.