March 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

First Edition of "Encyclopaedia Britannica" at Auction

Ency Brit.jpgAh, the beloved Encyclopaedia Britannica. Since it ceased publication in 2012 after 241 years, our nostalgia for these volumes has only increased. (Even my born-digital children have requested a set.) So I find it exciting that a first edition of this most cherished of encyclopedias, published in Edinburgh in 1771, will appear at auction later this month. Addison & Sarova will offer the three-volume set, bound in later half-calf with a little rubbing, but, more importantly, retaining all 160 plates. According to the auctioneer, "The set is scarcely seen containing all of the plates--particularly the child-birthing plates, present in the third volume, which caused an outcry when the book was first published and thus were not included in many issues." The estimate is $6,000-8,000.

(For some history on EB, see Britannica's own entry on the first edition.)

Also of particular interest in the March 19 sale: A copy of "Double Falshood," a play "strongly" believed to have been written by William Shakespeare. Printed in 1728, the disputed play is bound here with other eighteenth-century plays (cropped in the early sheep re-bind). It has not been seen at auction "in many decades," according to Addison & Sarova. The estimate is $1,500-2,500. A scarce, early Erasmus -- Moriae Encomium (Strasbourg, 1511) -- is another highlight. It is estimated to go for $30,000-40,000.

Image courtesy of Addison & Sarova.