July 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

The Last King of Portugal was a Book Collector

photo 4.JPGToday in London the antiquarian bookselling firm Maggs Bros. will celebrate the publication of a limited edition, bilingual book titled The Last King of Portugal and Maggs, written by Clara Macedo Cabral. King Manuel II, exiled in Twickenham after the Republican Coup of 1910, began collecting books in 1913. After World War I, the king exclusively commissioned Maggs to assemble "the finest Portuguese book collection printed before 1600." One of the treasures they sourced: The Book of Marco Polo, printed by Valentim Fernandes in 1502.

Cabral's history is as much about Maggs, the oldest antiquarian bookseller under continuous family ownership, as it is about Manuel, and therefore will be of interest not only to collectors of Portuguese culture and history but to those who enjoy the lore of bookselling and books about books.

photo 1.JPGMaggs published the book in an edition of 400, hardbound with pretty endpapers and richly illustrated throughout, including two foldout plates (one seen above). Half of the edition will be sent to Portugal, while the remaining 200 will be for sale at Maggs for £20 ($31) per copy, plus postage/handling. Potential buyers may contact Titus Boeder (Titus@Maggs.com).

Images Courtesy of Titus Boeder/Maggs.