Auctions | August 4, 2014

Edward Burne-Jones’ Kelmscott Chaucer and Book of Hours From His Personal Collection Up for Auction


San Francisco—Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house, will begin its fall season with an auction of fine books and manuscripts on September 22 in San Francisco. The sale will be simulcast in New York and will preview there from September 12-14, as well as in San Francisco from September 19-21.

The autumn sale will feature one of 425 paper copies of “The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer,” as printed by William Morris’ Kelmscott Press in 1896 (est. $30,000-50,000). The work features 87 woodcut illustrations designed by Pre-Raphaelite British artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898).

Book of Hours .jpeg

Burne-Jones is also tied to another highlight of the sale. The auction will present an early 15th century "Book of Hours," which bears an ownership inscription by Burne-Jones, as well as his book plate (est. $30,000-50,000). 

The manuscript includes seven painted miniatures depicting: Annunciation, Adoration, Coronation of the Virgin, King David, Crucifixion, Pentecost, and A Funeral. The miniatures feature illumination typical of the workshops that flourished in Paris in the first decades of the 15th century. Burne-Jones' reinterpretation of medieval themes and compositions drawn from medieval illuminated manuscripts such as this was absolutely central to his work.

Also of note in the sale is a Walt Whitman holograph manuscript of "Rain Enigma" [Voice of the Rain], which appeared in the first annex: “Sands at Seventy” of the 1891-1892 edition of “Leaves of Grass.” The piece features an autograph inscription of Horace Traubel, close friend of Whitman and his self-described "spirit child" (est. $30,000-50,000). It is matted and framed with a portrait.

A rare Civil War broadside, “The State of Louisiana. An Ordinance to Dissolve the Union between the State of Louisiana and other States united with her....,” is also on offer (est. $6,000-8,000). It features a Louisiana Republic flag that was only in use for two weeks. The ordinance was adopted on January 26, 1861 and Louisiana joined the Confederacy two weeks later.

For additional information about the sale, please visit

First image: KELMSCOTT PRESS. CHAUCER, GEOFFREY. Works. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896. Edited by F.S. Ellis. Woodcut illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones. One of 425 paper copies. Estimate: $30,000-50,000.

Second image: BOOK OF HOURS. Illuminated manuscript on vellum, Book of Hours in Latin, Use of Paris [Paris, first quarter of the fifteenth century]. Estimate: $30,000-50,000.