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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Chronicles of Narnia, Virginia, and Greece

The First Virginians

Wunderbarliche, doch Warhafftige Erklärung, von der Gelegenheit und Sitten der Wilden in Virginia welche newlich von den Engelländern so im Jahr 1585. [The Great Voyages] by Theodor de Bry, £133,250 ($210,668) at Christie’s London on October 27.

The John White map of Virginia. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Engraver Theodor de Bry’s series of illustrated accounts of the early exploration, settlement, and colonization of the Americas drew on various travelers’ tales and, for the pictorial content, on the work of men such as Jacques Le Moyne, who lived and worked among French colonists in Florida in the 1560s, and John White, who was with Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1585 expedition to Virginia.

The plate reproduced here shows ceremonial dancing that attended an annual Indian feast. In the English text the description includes the following: “The place where they meet is a broad plain, about which are planted in the ground certain posts carved with heads like to the faces of nuns covered with their veils. Then being set in order, they dance and sing, and use the strangest gestures that they can possibly devise. Three of the fairest virgins of the company are in the midst.” Courtesy of Christie’s.

The first of the thirteen parts that came to make up what are now known as the ‘Great Voyages’—the name derived from their large format not evaluation of merit—was to have focused on Florida, but Raleigh, in his desire to attract colonists, persuaded de Bry to give Virginia precedence.

The original plan was to publish each part in Latin, English, French, and German, but the 1590 Virginia volume was the only one so produced, the following parts being issued in Latin and German only.

This copy, part of the Arcana Collection, was a scarce German language copy (and bought by German dealer, Dr. Jörn Günther), but more significantly, all the engraved plates are in full contemporary color, and the John White map of Virginia, a cartographical milestone in North American history, is in the extremely rare first state.

Snail and Artichoke Pie

Singulier traicte contenant la propriete des Tortues, Escargotz, Grenoilles, et Artichaultz by Etienne de Laigue, £21,250 ($33,596) at Christie’s London on October 27.

A woodcut illustrating the book’s main concerns on the title page. Courtesy of Christie’s.

No clear precedence has been established among various undated Paris and Lyons editions of this curious early treatise, which concerns itself with the species, medicinal properties, and culinary uses of turtles, snails, frogs, and artichokes—but according to the nineteenth-century bibliographer, Brunet, the rarest of them is this Lyons edition of c.1534, issued by Pierre de Sainte-Lucie dit le prince.

Bound in contemporary limp vellum, it was an example of that very edition of de Laigue’s Singulier traicte that was offered in London as part of the Arcana Collection.

The only other copy of this work recorded at auction in recent times is a Paris edition (thought to date from c.1530) that made $13,030 at Sotheby’s London in 2005, as part of the cookery book collection of the Norwegian chef, restaurateur, food writer, and collector, Hroar Dege.

Plain Jane

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, £139,250 ($220,210) at Sotheby’s London on October 28.

The ultimate prize for Austen collectors – Pride and Prejudice, uncut in original boards. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Not a beautiful object to behold, I grant you, but a copy in the drab boards in which it was first issued by Egerton in 1813 is something beyond the reach and ambition of almost all devoted and determined Austen collectors – even assuming they have the necessary funds.

Since 1975, just two copies in original boards have come to auction, and this is by far the more desirable. This was the copy that the legendary US dealer Dr. Rosenbach bought for $800 as part of a 1945 Parke-Bernet (New York) sale of the Frank J. Hogan library, and which in 1988 finally came back to auction as part of the vast Countess Doheny library at Christie’s New York to sell at $49,500.

Since that time copies in period, if not actually publisher’s bindings have made as much as $82,000, but copies of Sense and Sensibility and Emma have both sold for more in the same period—notably the copy of Emma that Jane gave to her close friend and lifelong correspondent, Ann Sharp, who was the model for Miss Taylor, the governess in her novel.

That exceptional Emma sold for $354,205 at Bonhams in the summer of 2008, but here was this special, uncut as issued copy of Jane’s most popular book, back again and setting a new record for the title, if not the author. This was one of the star turns in the first portion of a multi-million dollar library of an anonymous English bibliophile that will keep Sotheby’s occupied for some time.

This copy lacks the original spine labels and has seen some repairs to the spines and inner margins of the first few leaves of volume one, but the only other copy in original boards to have come to auction was not as attractive.

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