Auctions | October 13, 2015

Important Early Printed Books at Swann Galleries’ October 27 Sale


New York—On October 27, 2015, Swann Galleries' Books & Manuscripts department will offer Early Printed & Medical Books, featuring Bibles, incunabula, early grammars and dictionaries of exotic languages, and works on missionary travel and Eastern Church history and liturgy, chiefly from the Library of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Bible highlights include a 1477 edition of the Vulgate printed in Nuremberg ($10,000 to $15,000); and a first edition of the Roman Catholic version of the New Testament in English, The New Testament Faithfully Translated into English, Rheims, 1582 ($6,000 to $9,000). Other religious items of note are a vellum manuscript of the winter portion of the Breviarium Romanum, Italy, 14th century ($8,000 to $12,000), and St. Antoninus Florentinus's Summa Theologica, Venice, 1474-81 ($6,000 to $9,000).

A section of linguistic works includes some of the earliest grammars and dictionaries of non-European languages to appear in Europe, such as Athanasius Kircher's Prodromus Coptus sive Aegyptiacus, the first European grammar of Coptic, Rome, 1636 ($800 to $1,200). 

Noteworthy among the travel books is Antonio Agostino Giorgi's Alphabetum Tibetanum missionum apostolicarum commodo editum, Rome, 1762, the most extensive 18th-century European book on Tibet, containing descriptions of its religion, geography, customs and more, based on reports by Capuchin missionaries ($3,000 to $5,000). Other titles of Asian interest are a first edition of Juan González de Mendoza's Historia de las Cosas mas notables, Ritos y Costumbres, del gran Reyno del China, Rome, 1585, a standard work of its time on China ($1,500 to $2,500); and a first edition of Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn'Arabshah's Vitae et rerum gestarum Timuri, qui vulgo Tamerlanes dicitur, historia, Leiden, 1636, a biography in Arabic of the 14th-century Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur ($1,500 to $2,500).

Literary highlights include a Fourth Folio of William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, London, 1685 ($8,000 to $12,000); a first edition of Sir William Davenant's adaptation of Macbeth, London, 1674 ($2,000 to $3,000); and a first edition in Italian of Dante Alighieri's De la Volgare Eloquenzia, advocating the literary use of the Italian vernacular, Vicenza, 1529 ($2,000 to $3,000).


The medical portion of the sale comes in part from the Stanton A. Freidberg, M.D. Rare Book Collection of Rush University Medical Center at the University of Chicago.  The top lots are a first edition of Anatomia Deudsch, an unauthorized German translation of Andreas Vesalius's Epitome, Nuremberg, 1551 ($15,000 to $25,000); and a first edition, second issue, of Robert Hooke's influential Micrographia, the first book devoted to entirely to microscopic observations, London, 1667 ($12,000 to $18,000). Other notable items are first editions of Govert Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis, Amsterdam, 1685, with 105 anatomical plates after Gerard de Lairesse ($4,000 to $6,000); Antonio Scarpa's Sull'Aneurisma, Pavia, 1804 ($2,000 to $3,000); and Hippolyt Guarinoni's Die Grewel der Verwüstung menschlichen Geschlechts, Ingolstadt, 1610 ($1,500 to $2,500), a huge treatise on the maintenance of spiritual and physical health, with a section on exercise containing the description of a distant forerunner of baseball.

The auction preview will be open to the public, with an exhibition opening October 23 from 10a.m. to 6p.m.; October 24 from noon to 5p.m.; October 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and October 27 from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated auction catalogue will be available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

First image: Lot 141[Biblia Latina], second Koberger Vulgate, Nuremberg, 1477. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.

Second image: Lot 378. Andreas Vesalius, Anatomia Deudsch, first edition of an unauthorized German translation, Nuremberg, 1551. Estimate $15,000 to $25,000.