February 2017 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Fly Me to the Moon: Latest Bonhams Fine Books & Manuscripts Catalog Soars

Bonhams will hold its Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday March 1st, and as usual, the accompanying full-color catalog brims with well-appointed material sure to pique the interest of a range of collectors. The theme for the March auction appears to be exploration and scholarly inquiry, with particular emphasis on science, technology, and literature through the ages.

Political documents pepper the catalog as well, such as a 1797 Letters Patent signed by President John Adams confirming the appointment of Thomas Bulkeley as the United States Consul for the port of Lisbon. Included in the lot is a letter rebuking any conflict of interest; Bulkeley sought no monetary favors in the deal because, "he possesses a very large independent fortune." Estimated bids at $2492.20.

Arguably the highlight of the catalog is the collection of a deceased, unnamed French bibliophile comprising of fantasy and scientific literature from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The collector assembled his material over the past thirty years, focusing initially on the recent history of aviation and then moving into the annals of the past. Bonhams has arranged this section of the catalog into two sections: one dedicated to the philosophers and scientists whose heavenly observations informed their work, and the second explores the challenges of human flight.

Among the high spots in the deceased French bibliophile's trove include a first edition, two-volume set of Jonathan Swift's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World...by Lemuel Gulliver, commonly referred to as Gulliver's Travels, estimated at twenty-five thousand dollars. A 1634 first edition of Johannes Kepler's A Dream: or, a Posthumous Work of Lunar Astronomy is also estimated at twenty-five thousand dollars.

Whether flights of fancy or grounded in scientific principles, the material in the forthcoming Bonhams sale has a common goal of making sense of the world beneath our feet and the universe above. The catalog is also available online for further browsing.