News | March 29, 2023

John Speed 17th Century Atlas Sells for £33,750

Chiswick Auctions

John Speed’s A Prospect of the most famous Parts of the World

John Speed's market-fresh copy of the first world atlas compiled by an Englishman sold for £33,750 ($41,580) at Chiswick Auctions. Speed’s A Prospect of the most famous Parts of the World bound together with The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine had come for sale by family descent with expectations of £12,000 - £15,000.

John Speed (1552-1629) is perhaps the most famous English mapmakers of the early modern period. The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the first English attempt to produce a grand scale atlas of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, was first published in 1611-12, and A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World, first published in 1627. Both are renowned for the beauty of the engravings.

This 1676 edition incorporates the two great works in one volume. It was published posthumously with the addition of eight new maps showing New England, Virginia and Maryland, Carolina, Jamaica and Barbados, East India, Russia and Canaan. The world map shows California as an island with Australasia as yet unchartered.

Chiswick Auctions specialist Clive Moss described it as: “The best edition of the most influential atlas by England’s greatest cartographer, and remarkable because it has never been offered for sale before”.

The sale of Books and Works on Paper on March 16 also included a very special copy of Keats’ Endymion published by the Golden Cockerel Press in 1947. Number 500 from an edition of 500, this copy was specially bound in vellum by Sangorski and Sutcliffe for the artist John Buckland Wright (1897–1954) who had provided the 58 wood-engraved illustrations. Bound in are 82 original pencil designs while all the engravings in a total of 300 states come housed in a separate cloth solander box. Estimated at £6000-8000, it raced away to bring £60,000.

Keats’ Endymion published by the Golden Cockerel Press in 1947 for John Buckland Wright.
Chiswick Auctions

Keats’ Endymion published by the Golden Cockerel Press in 1947 for John Buckland Wright.

Funeral Procession to the grave of Bonaparte, 9 May 1821
Chiswick Auctions

Funeral Procession to the grave of Bonaparte, 9 May 1821

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Chiswick Auctions

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This rare private press work came for sale from Buckland Wright’s family. From the same source were three original sketch books sold for £12,500. Across the 127 pages were a series of erotic and semi-erotic pencil sketches of females in various poses made by the artist from 1943-46.

Subject to particular competition from Napoleon buffs was an original watercolour sketch titled Funeral Procession to the grave of Bonaparte, 9 May 1821. It was further inscribed to the reverse Made for John Wilson Croker Esq. by EE Vidal and included annotations listing the various regiments in attendance and description of the route of procession to the grave. Emeric Essex Vidal (1791-1861) was an English watercolourist and naval officer who was on the island of St Helena when Napoleon died and took several sketches of the deceased emperor. John Wilson Croker (1780-1857), born in Galway called to the Irish bar in 1802, had an interest in the French Revolution which led him to collect a large number of documents which are now in the British Museum. Estimated at £2000-3000, this 34 x 45cm watercolour took £12,500.

A copy of the second English edition of John-Batiste Du Halde’s Empire of China and Chinese-Tartary, Korea and Tibet sold for £11,250. Du Halde (1674-1743), a French Jesuit historian, did not travel to China but collected reports from 17 Jesuit missionaries to create this encyclopedia that was the first to describe the Chinese empire in detail. His work is of particular interest as one of the first sources of information on Chinese ceramics available to Europeans. This three-volume copy printed in London from 1738-41 is considered the best English edition with several improvements made to the 64 maps.

Libro detto Strega, published in Bologna in 1524 is the first book in Italian dedicated to witchcraft. It reports the witchcraft (and anti-witchcraft) activity that struck the principalities of Mirandola and Concordia between 1522-23 and resulted in the burning at the stake of ten people (seven men and three women). Public opinion began to criticise the death sentences, so in May 1523 Giovanni Francesco Pico quickly wrote a justification. It was translated into the Italian vernacular by a local Dominican friar the following year. A copy of the 1524 Bologna edition sold for £8,125.

Witchcraft of a different kind, an uncorrected proof copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban also sold at £8,125. In ‘carefully read condition’ and in its original green and white printed wrappers, this is one of approximately 250 copies of the third Potter novel produced for proofing purposes a few months before general publication in 1999.

A first edition, first issue copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1897 in original yellow cloth sold at £5,250.