Auctions | March 2, 2015

Continental, English & Middle Eastern Books and Manuscripts at Bloomsbury Auctions

London—Bloomsbury Auctions are delighted to present their sale of Continental, English & Middle Eastern Books & Manuscripts on Thursday 19th March in London at their saleroom in Mayfair. The sale charts the development of printing on the continent and in England, with works dating from the 1470s up until the 18th century.

Particularly in vogue after the release of Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, is a 17th century work on codes and secret writing; Cryptomenytices et Cryptographiae libri IX, first edition (1624), by Augustus II, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, written under the pseudonym, Gustav Selenus. The engraved title page of the work is believed to provide the first clue of Sir Francis Bacon’s supposed authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. In one vignette it depicts Bacon handing a manuscript text to Shakespeare (a man holding a spear) and in another depicts Bacon writing on a folio-sized piece of paper, which hints at the first folio edition of the plays, published a year earlier in 1623 [estimate £2,000-3,000 Lot 129]. The fourth folio edition of the plays of 1685 is also offered here. It is the last edition to be printed in the 17th century [estimate £10,000-15,000 Lot 157].

Regardless of Shakespeare’s true identity it is well documented that his works were inspired by the comedies of the Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus. Leading an impressive opening group of 45 incunables from a private collection is Comoediae (1472) by Plautus.

This fine collection of incunabula charts the development of printing in Europe from 1471-1500. Collections of this size rarely appear at auction, and it is particularly unusual to see an editio princeps of Plautus’ Comoediae at auction. The last copy the auctioneer can trace was in 1961. This rare survivor is estimated to achieve £10,000-15,000 [Lot 4].

Elsewhere in the sale is the first printing of the works of the mathematician Euclid, with an introduction by John Dee, alchemist, occult philosopher and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I; The Elements of Geometrie, (1570). John Dee’s preface is considered by many to be his most important published work. It outlines the practical applications of Euclid’s work, lays the foundations for later experimental science and hints at the use of magic and the supernatural in conjunction with the natural [estimate £20,000-30,000 Lot 115].

The sale will also feature a selection of books and manuscripts from the growing Middle-Eastern department at Bloomsbury Auctions including the first book printed in Arabic in the Lebanon, Nieremberg's Kitab Mizan Al-Zaman… (1734) [estimate £2,000-3,000 Lot 63] and a collection of 126 leaves from a 15th century illuminated Mamluk Qur’an [estimate £12,000-18,000 Lot 66].

Other important Middle-Eastern works include an Indian Qu’ran in Bihari script that bears the inscription; “Looted from valley of Barkilli, Boner, 16.1.98” [estimate £750-1,000 Lot 75] and a rare early copy of Molla' Khosro's Kitab Durar Al-Hukkam… (988AH) [1580AD], an important legal treatise on the principles of legal practice. This work is thought to have been copied directly from the author’s original by celebrated writer and Hanafi jurist, Muhammad B. Faramurz b. Ali, d.1480 [estimate £800-1,200 Lot 71].

The Continental, English & Middle Eastern Books and Manuscripts sale will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ saleroom in London’s Mayfair on Thursday 19th March 2015. The catalogue is available to view and download online at