Auctions | March 20, 2013

Early Travel Books and Religious Works Top Lots at Swann Galleries

New York — Swann Galleries’ auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books on February 28, saw active bidding in the room and on the phones, and 97 percent of the lots offered found buyers.



The top lot in the sale was a scarce first edition in English of Juan González de Mendoza, The Historie of the Great and Mightie Kingdome of China, London, 1588, translated from the 1586 Madrid edition, which had been expanded to include the report by Antonio de Espejo of his 1583 expedition to New Mexico. It sold for $45,600*.

By the same author was a first edition of Il Gran Regno della China, a collection of excerpts from the Italian version by Francesco Avanzo, with a double-page woodcut map of China, Florence, 1589, $11,400.

Another highlight from the travel books portion of the auction was the first English language newspaper in China, The Canton Register, volumes 2-3 and 7-8, Guangzhou, 1829-30; 1834-35, $4,800.

Also drawing much attention was a first edition of the King James Bible, with the “he” in Ruth, London, 1611, which brought $28,800.

Other featured Bibles and religious texts included a 15th-century vellum leaf from a Latin antiphonary with illuminated initial A, Florence, $5,040; Johannes de Bromyard, Summa praedicantium, first edition, Basel, not after 1484, $5,280; [Biblia cum Postillis Nicolai de Lyra], Bible in Latin, Nuremberg, 1486, $4,560; and Samuel Johnson’s Greek New Testament, Tes Kaines Diathekes Apanta . . . Novum Jesu Christi . . . Testamentum, a gift from translator John Hoole, Frankfurt, 1601, $15,600.

Another Johnson highlight was A Dictionary of the English Language, first edition, one of 2000 copies, London, 1755, $5,280.

Notable Aldine imprints among the early printed books were Sophocles, Tragoediae septem, first Aldine edition, in the original Greek, Venice, 1502, $10,200; Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius, [Carmina], first Aldine edition, Venice, 1502, $6,960; and Pindar, et al., Olympia, Pythia, Nemea, Isthmia [and other texts], first Aldine edition in the original Greek, Venice, 1513, $4,800.

Form the medical and scientific portion of the sale were Thomas Wright’s An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, first edition, London, 1750, $14,400 and Benjamin Franklin’s New Experiments and Observations on Electricity . . . The Third Edition, parts 1 and 2, London, 1762, $5,280.

Rounding out the sale highlights were Baruch Spinoza, Tractatus theologico-politicus, first edition, Hamburg, 1670, $22,800; Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, first edition, nine volumes, 1760-67, $4,800, and from a run of works on the Albanian hero Skanderbeg, Jacques de Lavardin, The Historie of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albanie, first edition in English, London, 1596, $4,560.

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

For further information, and to consign to upcoming auctions of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books, please contact Tobias Abeloff at 212-254-4710, extension 18, or


*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Pictured: The Historie of the Great and Mightie Kingdome of China, London, 1588, by Juan González de Mendoza, translated from the 1586 Madrid edition.