Auctions | November 1, 2010

Swann's Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Occult Books

New York—On Tuesday, November 9, Swann Galleries will offer a wide range of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific, & Occult Books at auction.

The first part of the sale features an illuminated manuscript Book of Hours in Latin and French, on vellum, with 13 large and two small miniatures in colors and gold, Paris, late 15th century with 16th- century additions (estimate $15,000 to $20,000); an attractive set of the second Estienne Hebrew “pocket” Bible, which is considered one of the most impressive examples of Hebrew printing of the French Renaissance, 17 parts in eight volumes, bound in 16th-century calf with gilt arabesque centers, Paris, 1544-46 ($10,000 to $15,000); and a first edition of the Hildesheim Missal, with 140 of 354 leaves, Nuremberg, 1499 ($2,500 to $3,500). 

Other Early Printed highlights are a copy of the second Sansovino edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Venice, 1578, in a lavish modern gilt-tooled morocco binding with painted decoration on the top, fore and bottom edges ($3,000 to $5,000); Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first edition, six volumes, London, 1776-88 ($8,000 to $12,000); and a first complete edition in English of Thomas Taylor’s translation of Aristotle’s Works, 11 volumes, one of only 50 sets, London, 1806-12, with the 1801 first edition of The Metaphysics ($10,000 to $15,000).

The Medical and Scientific Books section opens with Abraham bar Hiyya and Elijah Mizrahi, Sefer Tsurat ha-Arets, Basel, 1546, first edition of the first complete textbook of astronomy in Hebrew ($8,000 to $12,000). Another Hebrew first is Mordekhai Gumpel Schnaber Levison, Ma'amar ha-Torah ve-ha-Hokhma, London, 1771, containing the first full elaboration of Newtonian physics in Hebrew ($600 to $900).

Medical works of note include William Cheselden, Osteographia; or, The Anatomy of the Bones, from the first limited edition of 400, London, 1733 ($3,000 to $4,000); a first edition of Samuel Thomas von Soemmerring’s thesis, the first accurate enumeration of the 12 cranial nerves, Gottingen, 1778 ($2,000 to $3,000); Samuel Stearns, The American Herbal, or Materia Medica, first edition of the first herbal produced and printed in the United States, Walpole, New Hampshire, 1801 ($1,500 to $2,500); and Andreas Vesalius, Icones Anatomicae, one of 615 numbered copies, with 277 plates, Munich, 1935 ($3,000 to $4,000). Also of interest is Hua Shou, Jushikei hakki, a Chinese text on acupuncture, first published in 1341 and also influential in Japan, where it went through a number of editions, this volume Japan, 1693? ($500 to $750).

Among the occult highlights are Johannes Trithemius, Polygraphie et Uniuerselle escriture Cabalistique, first edition in French of the earliest treatise on cryptography, Paris, 1561 ($3,000 to $4,000); Jean Bodin, La Demonomanie des Sorciers, one of the most celebrated books on the theory and practice of witch hunting, Paris, 1598 ($800 to $1,200); and Francis Potter, An Interpretation of the Number 666, first edition, Oxford, 1642 ($1,000 to $2,000).
The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 9. The books will be on public exhibition Friday, November 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, November 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday, November 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, November 9, from 10 a.m. to noon.

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

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Tobias Abeloff at (212) 254-4710, extension 18, or via e-mail at

Live online bidding is also available via