Auctions | April 4, 2018

The Spectacular Wassenaar Zoo Library at Bonhams

Paradisea rubra le paradis rouge copy.jpgBonhams is to offer one of the finest collections of ornithological books in private hands - Wassenaar Zoo: a Dutch Private Library - in London on 30 May 2018. The library comprises more than 2,400 volumes.

The collection, which also contains zoological works on cats, monkeys, fish, chameleons, elephants, and other animals, was assembled during the 1950s to complement the work of Wassenaar Zoo, which has since closed.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • A near-complete run of John Gould’s magnificent folios, from his first major work A Century of Birds… from the Himalaya Mountains for which his wife Elizabeth supplied the drawings to the Birds of Asia and Birds of New Guinea that were completed after his death. The pinnacle of Gould’s work is his seven-volume Birds of Australia (1840-1869), the result of his own tour of the continent during which he named 300 new species of birds. This is also included in the sale and is estimated at £100,000-150,000.
  • Five major works by Daniel Giraud Elliot, one of the most important American ornithologists and naturalists of the nineteenth century and a founder of the American Museum of Natural History in 1869.
  • Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis (1806) and several other studies by the French explorer, zoological collector, and noted ornithologist François Levaillant.

Bonhams Head of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley said: “It is rare to find such a comprehensive library of books on ornithology. All the best-regarded names of this very special art form are included, and there are also sumptuous works on zoology. These scientific landmarks were arguably the natural history documentaries of their day, and show that people have been fascinated by wildlife for centuries.”

Image: Jean Baptiste Audebert & Louis Pierre Vieillot, Oiseaux dorés ou à reflets métalliques, 1800-02. First Edition. Desray, Paris. Estimate: £10,000-15,000. Courtesy of Bonhams