Auctions | October 4, 2010

Bloomsbury to Auction Richard Harris Collection

Bloomsbury Auctions is delighted to offer the renowned Richard Harris Collection of American and British colour plate books on Natural History. The $3-4million collection which was formed over 40 years ago is fresh to the market and is a two part sale bestriding the Atlantic. The first auction will be held in Bloomsbury’s New York saleroom off Rockefeller Plaza on 13th October while the second will be held on 3rd November in Bloomsbury House in central London.

In an unprecedented move, Bloomsbury Auctions aims to encourage and revitalize the market in these days of financial uncertainty, by reducing the buyer’s premium to 10%, a level not seen since the 1980s.

Richard Harris is a man who enjoys visual images and this, his primary collection, was inspired by the beauty and strength of the imagery in the Natural History, Architecture and View Books that he discovered on his travels in England and Holland in the 1970s and 80s. This is an individual’s private collection, lovingly put together, the main criteria being beauty, impact and excellence. It includes many extraordinary, rare works in his chosen fields of interest, from flowers, shells, fruit, birds, fish and exotic plants to American Indians and Chinese imagery.

The first sale in New York concentrates on the heart of collection, the cream of the Natural History and American colour plate books. Audubon’s masterly work The Quadrupeds of America, 1845-54 will set pulses racing and this copy was specially bound in four volumes rather than three for an early French subscriber and is expected to fetch $400,000-600,000. Unseen on the market for over 40 years is a full set of the eight principal works by Daniel Elliot (seven on birds, one on big cats) covering amongst others, Grouse, Pheasants, American Birds, Hornbills and which is estimated to fetch $200,000-300,000.

A cornerstone of any major collection of ornithological books must be John Gould’s seven volume work The Birds of Asia, 1850-1883; the Harris copy has the added attraction of having belonged to King Leopold of Belgium and it carries an estimate of $70,000-100,000; while his monumental A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or Family of Humming-Birds, 6 vol., 1849-87, is expected to fetch $80,000-120,000. Another masterpiece in the collection is Edward Lear’s first book, his monograph on parrots entitled Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots, 1830-32, the first ornithological folio work to be published with lithographic plates, (estimate $50,000-80,000). Botanical works include a copy of Redoute’s 8 volume magnum opus Les Liliacees, 1802-16 which is expected to fetch $100,000-150,000; and Brookshaw’s Pomona Britannica, the most important work devoted to English fruit, published in 1812, which has an estimate of $70,000-100,000.

Admirers of books on fish need look no further than one of the finest copies of Bloch’s Ichthyologie, ou Histoire Naturelle…des Poissons, 1785-1797 to be offered for sale; this complete copy of the six volume work once belonged to the Duchesse de Berry and is estimated at $40,000-60,000. The roll call of rare Natural History books continues with works by Edwards, Selby, Audebert, Duhamel du Monceau, Hill, Levaillant, Martyn, Nozemann, Seba, Roscoe, Van Spaendonk and many more. Most of the great English titles in this collection have come from the famous English Country House auctions of the 1970s such as Chatsworth, Arbury, Crofton Park, Easton Neston, and Thurland Castle… a fruitful period for collecting books.

Whilst the Natural History field was Richard Harris’s first love, his collection of books on American Indians is equally impressive. A copy in the rare original parts (virtually unknown at auction) of the seminal History of the Indian Tribes of North America, 1836-1844 by McKenney and Hall is included at $50,000-80,000, as is a 3 volume bound set originally owned by a subscriber from Wilmington Delaware and in an early signed Delaware binding (est. $40,000-60,000) plus the 3 volume small format edition of 1855 at $7,000-10,000. Harris’s copy of Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio, 1844, estimated at $30,000-50,000, includes an unusual proposal leaf announcing his ambitious plan to issue three other portfolios.

Travel books and atlases are other wonderful facets of the Richard Harris Collection. The elaborately hand-coloured grand copy of Tooneel der Staden, 1649 by Willem and Johannes Blaeu, showing decorative town plans of Holland at the height of its power, was obviously commissioned by a noble client and is expected to fetch between $40,000-60,000. One of the most impressive and all-embracing books on Egypt is Description de L’Egypte, Napoleon’s great survey of the country he wished to control. This handsome set of the second edition bound in 37 volumes is estimated to bring $20,000-30,000. Other awe-inspiring works included in this section are by Piranesi, Humboldt, Newcastle, Helman and Homann.

When the sale of 171 lots in New York is over, the focus moves to London on 3rd November. Bloomsbury Auctions London then offers over 400 lots, continuing with Natural History, spanning a large collection of books on butterflies, birds, flowers and periodicals as well as fine European plate books on decoration and architecture, maps of Britain and France, town plans of London and Paris, view books and also travels in Europe and the Middle East.

The Harris collection is a feast for the eye, with something for every book and print lover and Bloomsbury Auctions is proud to be presenting the sale internationally to a wide audience and, with the reduced buyer’s premium, offering everyone the chance to acquire and enjoy some of the greatest examples of the beauty of book-illustration art from the 17th to the 19th century.