Auctions | February 11, 2014

Flora and Fauna: The Library of a Gentleman at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury

A fine selection of books from the library of a south-coast Gentleman will be offered in Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions' sale on Thursday 27th February. Displaying the owner's passion for natural history, the collection includes an extremely rare and complete hand-coloured florilegium of Abraham Munting’s posthumously published Naauwkeurige Beschryving der Aargewassen.

Naauwkeurige Beschryving der Aargewassen broke botanical publication stereotypes when it was first produced in 1696 for its portrayal of ‘larger than life’ plants in classical, idyllic or mountainous landscapes. This was a radical change from the traditional, isolated image of the plant.

Munting was professor of Botany at the University of Groningen, and the director of ‘Paradise of Groningen’, a botanical garden founded by his father in 1642. Under Munting the garden grew considerably to one of the most extensive of the period and became famous throughout Europe as a place of horticultural pilgrimage.

Munting’s death in 1683 prevented him from completing Naauwkeurige Beschryving der Aargewassen, however in 1696 it was published with the line drawings he had commissioned from artists.  This copy, with full hand-colouring from a later date, is estimated to achieve £10,000-15,000. [Lot 52]

A later botanical work by Robert John Thornton, The Temple of Flora or Garden of the Botanist, Poet, Painter and Philosopher,1812, is believed to be one of the greatest flower books. This second edition was produced in a smaller and more manageable format quarto size rather than the larger folio first edition. It is estimated to sell for £4,000-6,000. [Lot 69]

Other important works in the botanical section include Philip Miller’s Figures of the most Beautiful…Plants and The Gardener’s and Botanist’s Dictionary, 1807, together estimated at £7,000-10,000 [Lot 49]; and Miss J. Smith’s Studies of Flowers from Nature 1818, a work that was issued in order to educate the leisured classes in the art of flower and watercolour painting from nature. The uncoloured duplicate plates were intended for beginners to practice on, with full instructions on which paints should be used in order to achieve a naturalistic image of the original. It is estimated at £6,000-8,000. [Lot 61]

Elsewhere in the sale is one of the most beautiful and comprehensive works on butterflies, a first edition of Papillons  d’Europe in 8 volumes by Marie Dominique Joseph Engramelle.

The book was issued in instalments to a list of subscribers during the French Revolution, from 1779-1792. According to the list printed in part III, subscribers to Papillons d’Europe included French physician and lawyer Pierre Joseph Buchoz and French geologist Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond along with royalty and nobility. This rare limited edition is complete and is estimated to achieve £10,000-15,000. [Lot 79]

William Buckler’s The Larvae of British Butterflies and Moths, 1886-1899, is a particularly rare example from the unusual books on insects and butterflies, with only one known copy selling at auction in the last 40 years. The nine volume work includes 164 lithographed plates and is estimated at £300-400. [Lot 77] 

From one of the great entomological book illustrators of the 18th century, Eleazar Albin is A Natural History of English Insects, 1749. The important work on British entomology features 100 hand-coloured engraved plates and is estimated at £2,000-£3,000. [Lot 132]

A revised second edition of the great ornithologist John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trogonidae, 1875, includes 11 plates not present in the first and is estimated at £8,000-12,000. Trogons are tropical rain-forest birds whose name is derived from the Greek word for nibbling, in reference to their habit of gnawing into trees to make their nests. [Lot 7]

Included in the works on mineralogy is James Sowerby’s British Mineralogy, 1804-1817. According to Lawrence H.Conklin it is “the supreme work of British topographical mineralogy, [and] the most ambitious colourplate work on minerals ever published.” All 550 hand-coloured plates were drawn from actual specimens retained in Sowerby’s extensive personal mineralogical collection.

Originally issued in parts between 1802 and 1817, it became an influential source of information during a time when interest in mineralogy and geology was growing. This first edition is a rare surviving complete set and is estimated at £5,000-7,000. [Lot 174]

The sale closes with topographical works, topped by William Daniell’s A Voyage Round Great Britain…, 1814-25, which Tooley describes as “The most important colour plate book on British Topography.” Featuring 308 hand-coloured aquatint plates the work is estimated at £8,000-12,000. [Lot 213]  Other works in the section predominately explore the topography of Sussex relating to the antiquities, history, geography and geology of the county.

The auction will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ Maddox Street saleroom in Mayfair on Thursday, 27 February. The auction will be on view from Tuesday, 25 February and the catalogue is available to download and view online at