Auctions | April 27, 2011

Auction Record for Eric Gill's Gospel at Swann Galleries

New York—The star item in Swann Galleries’ spring auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts on April 7, an association copy of The Four Gospels . . . , published in 1931 by The Golden Cockerel Press, and widely considered to be a masterpiece of modern book design, sold for an auction record $132,000*. Designed and illustrated by Eric Gill as a homage to the medieval tradition of illuminated text, and one of only 12 printed on Roman Vellum, this copy is the only one inscribed by Gill to appear at auction. The recipient of the inscription was his well-known colleague Leonard Woolf.

The sale comprised a wide range of books and manuscripts in beautiful condition that appealed to dealers and collectors who gathered for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair held over the following weekend.

Christine von der Linn, Swann book specialist said, “The spirit of New York Book Week could be felt at the heavily attended auction preview and continued with active bidding throughout the auction, especially for works that are rarely seen on the market.”

Another rarity that set a record was Francisco López de Gomara, Tarih-i Hind-i Garbi, [Description of the India of the West], Constantinople, 1730, the first edition of the first book on America printed in the Muslim world, limited to 500 copies, which brought $52,800.

Literary highlights included a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, number 128 of 150 copies on vergé d’arches, Paris, 1922, called the “Giant Joyce” because its proportions are larger than those of the other limitations, $31,200; and a complete set in original boards of Lord Byron’s Don Juan, 16 Cantos (complete) in seven volumes, London, 1823-24, $16,800.

The sale also featured an assortment of illuminated manuscripts, both medieval, including a liturgical manuscript circa 1475 in Latin on vellum, with 12 miniatures, borders and initials by two artists, Tours(?), $26,400; and modern, such as a unique illuminated manuscript on vellum by Louis Fairfax Muckley, of James Russell Lowell’s The Vision of Sir Launfal, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1925, $14,400; as well as a large selection of illuminated vellum leaves.

Celebrating architecture and design were Giuseppe Galli Bibiena, Architetture, e Prospettive, first edition, Augsburg, 1740, $9,600; and Seconda Parte delle Logge di Rafaele nel Vaticano, one of three volumes of engravings after Raphael’s decorations in the private loggia of Pope Leo X in the Vatican, with exquisite contemporary hand-coloring, Rome, 1776, $16,800.

Early printed works on astronomy included Johannes Angelus, Astrolabium, with more than 400 handcolored woodcut illustrations, first edition, Augsburg, 6 October 1488, $22,800; and Giovanni Jacopo de Marinoni, De astronomica specula domestica et organico apparatu astronomico libri duo, first edition with 43 folding plates of astronomical and scientific instruments at the first Viennese observatory, Vienna, 1745, $19,200.

Rounding out the sale were an exceptionally well preserved volume of illustrated classical texts in translation, including the first editions in German of the histories of Justinus and Herodianus, Augsburg, 1531, $12,000; Niccolò Tartaglia’s military work, Three Bookes of Colloquies concerning the Art of Shooting…, first edition in English, London, 1588, bound with The Compleat Gunner, first edition, 1672, $12,000; Antoine-François Sergent-Marceau, Portraits des Grands Hommes, Femmes Illustres, et Sujets Mémorables de France, printed in color and hand finished, first edition, Paris, circa 1792, $7,680; and Sir Richard Francis Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, first edition, London, 1855-56, $6,960.

An illustrated catalogue, with complete prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at

For further information, and to propose consignments of Fine Books to autumn 2011 auctions, please contact Tobias Abeloff (15th-18th century books) at 212-254-4710, extension 18, or; or Christine von der Linn (19th-20th century books) at 212-254-4710, extension 20, or

*All prices include buyer’s premium.