Auctions | April 23, 2015

Gutenberg Leaf, Book Bound for Elizabeth I Among Highlights at Swann Galleries April 9 Auction

gutenbergleaf copy.jpg

New York—Swann Galleries’ April 9 auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books saw strong results for illuminated manuscripts and early printed volumes. Tobias Abeloff, Swann’s early printed books specialist, said, “This was a successful sale. While early printed volumes performed quite well, we also saw lots in the scientific and medical sections of the sale far surpass expectations.”

A single leaf from a paper copy of the Gutenberg Bible brought $55,000*, while a 1463 manuscript of Petrus Lombardus's Sentences sold for $45,000.


Fit for a queen was a copy of Marcus Tullius Cicero’s Orationum volumen primum, 1543, which was bound for the private library of Queen Elizabeth I, and decorated with her falcon device. It brought $25,000 — more than two times its pre-sale estimate.

Also bringing five figures were Samuel Purchas, Purchas His Pilgrimes, first edition, London, 1625, with His Pilgrimage, London, 1626, $32,500; Saint Aurelius Augustinus, Sermones ad heremitas, manuscript in Latin and Italian on vellum, Italy, early 1400s, $22,500; a Parisian Book of Hours with contemporary illumination, printed on vellum, 1534, $15,000 and Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, first edition, three volumes, London, 1830-33, $11,250.

Additional scientific and medical highlights included W.T.G. Morton, Remarks on the Proper Mode of Administering Sulphuric Ether by Inhalation, first edition, Boston, 1847, $9,375; Sir Isaac Newton, A Treatise on the System of the World, first edition in English, London, 1728, $6,750 and Aratus, Syntagma Arateorum, first Grotius edition, Leiden, 1600, $6,250.

Rounding out the sale were Jean-Jacques Boissard, Vitae et icons Sultanorum Turcicorum, first edition in Latin, Frankfurt am Main, 1596, from the travel books portion of the auction, $6,500; Ramon Llull, Liber de ascensu et descensu intellectus, first edition, Valencia, 1512, $8,125; Gratianus, Decretum, Strassburg, 1489, $7,000; Saint Bonaventura, Opuscula, two volumes, Strassburg, 1495, $6,500 and William Shakespeare, Othello, London, 1705, $6,000.

An illustrated catalogue, with complete prices realized, is available for $35 from Swann Auction Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at

For further information, and to consign to upcoming auctions of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books, please contact Tobias Abeloff at 212-254-4710, extension 18, or

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: A single leaf from a paper copy of the Gutenberg Bible, sold for  $55,000 (including buyer’s premium).

Second image: Marcus Tullius Cicero's Orationum volumen primum, 1543, bound for the private library of Queen Elizabeth I, sold for $25,000 (including buyer’s premium).