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Mission Accomplished

17th Century French Indies Dictionary, Sotheby’s London, $55,315

The epic dispersal of the Shirburn Castle library of the Earls of Macclesfield is almost over. There will be one more ‘mopping-up’ sale, but since 2004, Sotheby’s has held 12 auctions and clocked up sales in excess of $50 million. The most recent, held on October 2, included a lot of early philological studies with European imprints, and a volume of 17th-century works on the Carib language, by Raymond Breton, was sold for £31,250 to a European dealer.

Breton was a Dominican missionary who spent 20 years from 1635 in the French West Indies, much of it working alone amongst the Indians. On his return to France, he instructed new missionaries and wrote four works on the Carib language, all of which were printed in Auxerre. A Petit catechisme… of 1664 was followed in successive years by a much more substantial, 480pp Dictionaire Caraibe-François… and its companion Dictionaire François-Caraibe…, and then a smaller Grammaire Caraibe… —all of them bound as one in contemporary mottled calf in the Macclesfield Library copy.

Termes of Endearment

1572 First Edition by Sambin, Bloomsbury London, £3,120

Even in its battered, torn and incomplete state, a copy of Hugues Sambin’s De la Diversité des Termes, dont on use en Architecture…. was a major attraction at Bloomsbury Auctions in London on September 26, 2008, when the working reference library of the distinguished architectural historian, the late Sir Howard Colvin, went on the block. Sold at £3,120 ($5,300), this was a 1572, Dijon first edition of a scarce work and a copy that had belonged to William Somerset, 3rd Earl of Worcester, a patron of drama and the arts who created magnificent Renaissance style apartments at his country seat of Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire.

The Earl’s signature and a few annotations are found in the book and some of the plates are marked with a chalk cross. It is thought that he may have used the Sambin book as a source for the terms, or figural carvings he wanted used in his new chimney-pieces. Raglan Castle suffered a long siege and artillery bombardment during the English Civil War but the remains of one grand fireplace, featuring two carved human figures, can still be seen in the Long Gallery.

Aussie Love

1802 “Courtship” Plate, Dominic Winter UK, £917

An image that has been reworked many times and in so many ways, from saucy seaside postcards to fashion advertisements, this is the ‘Courtship’ plate from George Barrington’s The History of New South Wales, including Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Pamaratta, Sydney, and all its Dependencies. More precisely it is one of 14 colored plates from an 1802 edition, bound in contemporary straight grained morocco, that sold for £917 [$1,555] in a Dominic Winter sale of August 27, 2008. The entry for this work in the catalog of the magnificent Davidson collection of Australiana, sold by Australian Book Auctions in 2005 & 2006, notes that the misspelling of Paramatta in the title may indicate that such copies were bound up from the original 14 parts.

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Derek HayesIan McKay’s weekly column in Antiques Trade Gazette has been running for more than 30 years.