Auctions | July 2020 | Jeremy Dibbell

Rare Books &c. at Auction This Week

Image: Christie's

A 1442 illuminated Cicero manuscript, offered at Christie's this week.

A busy week coming up in the salerooms!

Sotheby's London will hold two sales on Tuesday, July 28. The first is The Library of a Greek Bibliophile: Travel books, Aldines, and an important Qur'an, in 119 lots. The Qur'an is an early 18th-century illuminated manuscript copied by calligrapher Ahmad al-Nayrizi and in a magnificent lacquered floral binding (£50,000–70,000). At the same estimate is Louis Dupré's Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople (1825–1839), a lavish color-plate book. The Blackmer copy of Stackelberg's La Grèce (1834), completed by the present owner, could sell for £35,000–50,000. Among the Aldines are the Macclesfield copy of Strabo's De situ orbis (1516), estimated at £25,000–35,000; the Garden Ltd. copy of Omnia Platonis opera (1513), estimated at £20,000–30,000; and a tall copy of the 1502 Herodotus, estimated at £18,000–25,000.

The second sale on Tuesday is Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History, in 237 lots. Expected to lead the way is a complete first edition set of Description de l'Égypte (1809–1822), uniformly bound by Tessier and housed in a custom cabinet by Stephen Beeching based on 19th-century designs. This copy is from the library of Louis Philippe, duc d'Orleans, and is estimated at £200,000–300,000. The Blaeu atlas Theatrum orbis terrarum (1640–1654) could sell for £55,000–65,000. Other lots that caught my eye in this one are Joseph Dalton Hooker's The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of the H.M. Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror in the Years 1839–1843, estimated at £15,000–20,000; and Richard Sharpe's own copy of his Monograph on the Alcedinidae (1868–1871), estimated at £6,000–8,000. Quite a few Streeter copies in this sale too, for the Streeter collector.

On Wednesday, July 29, Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents, including the Len Newton Cactus Library, in 430 lots. 

One lot will be of particular interest to us at the Classic Art Evening Sale at Christie's London Wednesday: the prayerbook of Mary, Queen of Scots. Illuminated by the Master of François de Rohan for Louise de Bourbon-Vendôme, Abbess of Fontevraud after 1534, and given by Louise to her grand-niece Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots during her marriage to Francis II of France, the book later passed to the Hale family of Gloucestershire and was rebound by Edwards of Halifax. It is estimated at £250,000–350,000.

Christie's Valuable Books & Manuscripts sale ends on Thursday, July 30. The 201 lots include a 1442 manuscript of Cicero's Epistolae ad Familiaries, copied by Domenico Cassio de Narnia (the only manuscript signed by him) and illuminated by Joacchinus Gigantibus of Rothemburg. This production was commissioned by Angelus da Spoleto, and stayed in Italy until it was sold to Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1860. Sir Sidney Cockerell purchased the manuscript from Quaritch in 1945, and even later it was owned by bookseller William Foyle. This week it could fetch £180,000–250,000. Also on offer is a late 11th-century Byzantine gospel lectionary in Greek, which also bears a 16th-century inscription in Slavonic. It was sold at Sotheby's in 1870 (also to Sir Thomas Phillipps) and was later in the Schøyen and McCarthy collections; this time it is estimated at £150,000–250,000.

A first edition of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) could sell for £70,000–100,000, while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's autograph manuscript of The Land of Mist is estimated at £50,000–80,000. Honestly this sale is filled with interesting lots, so be sure to have a look through the catalog.

Forum Auctions sells Books and Works on Paper on Thursday, in 298 lots. 

The expected top lot at Swann's Fine Books & Manuscripts sale on Thursday is a first edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) with a wonderful ownership note: "These two volumes were gifted to W:A: by the author, before publication with a handsome compliment in Mr. Smith's writing which was cut out by a stupid French bookbinder & could not be found, he having destroyed it as sullied paper & substituted this clean leaf in place of it." A later owner attributes the above to Edinburgh banker William Alexander. The set is estimated at $70,000–90,000.

Rounding out Thursday's sales is a 201-lot no-reserve sale of Literature – Food & Agriculture – Photography – Books in All Fields at PBA Galleries.

And least but not least, Chiswick Auctions holds two sales on Friday, July 31: Books & Works on Paper including Aviation & Transport (355 lots) and Autographs & Memorabilia (374 lots).