Incunabula, Philosophy, Books on Anatomy & Dentistry Coming Up at Swann Galleries on May 1


New York—On Thursday, May 1, Swann Galleries will auction a fine selection of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books that offers scarce examples of incunabula, books on anatomy by Vesalius and others, dentistry books, Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species and more.

Among the earliest items in the sale is Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni, a first edition of a 1st-century A.D. account of the life and exploits of Alexander the Great, Venice, 1471 (pre-sale estimate: $15,000 to $20,000). Other examples of incunabula include Iyov, i.e. the book of Job, from a Bible in Hebrew, the third production of the first Hebrew press in Naples, 26 September 1487 ($8,000 to $12,000); and a collage of nine miniatures, mostly scenes from the life of Christ, within a frame of 21 cuttings from illuminated borders, all excised from a vellum liturgical manuscript from later 15th century northern France, the whole mounted on stiff card, probably in the 19th century ($8,000 to $12,000).

There are also pre-1500 medical books, such as Johannes de Gaddesden, Rosa anglica practica medicinae, the first printed medical treatise by an English author, an early 14th-century compilation dealing with fevers, various diseases and injuries and remedies, drawing uncritically on ancient and medieval sources, bound with Bernardus de Gordonio, De urinis et de pulsibus, excerpted from the author's larger treatise dealing with uroscopy and pulse reading as diagnostic tools ($25,000 to $35,000); and de Gordonio’s Practica, seu Lilium medicinae, third edition of a popular medieval textbook of practical medicine composed at the beginning of the 14th century and first printed in 1480, Lyon, 1491 ($4,000 to $6,000).

A run of works by Andreas Vesalius includes a scarce second edition of his landmark treatise on human anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica, lib. VII, in an unauthorized pocket edition by Jean de Tournes, Lyon, 1552 ($10,000 to $15,000); a first edition of the first work on Vesalian anatomy published in England, Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio, an unauthorized abridgment of his Epitome with illustrations copied by Thomas Geminus after Jan van Calcar, London, 1545 ($15,000 to $20,000); and John Evelyn's copy of the fifth edition of Anatomia, bound for him and with pressmarks in his hand, Venice, 1604 ($15,000 to $20,000).

Predating Vesalius is a sammelband of scarce German Renaissance medical imprints, bearing the bookplates of Sixtus Kapsser, court physician to Duke Albrecht of Bavaria, which includes Giacomo Berengario da Carpi, Isagogae breves et exactissimae in anatomiam humani corporis, Strassburg, 1530, Leonhart Fuchs, Compendiaria ac succincta admodum in medendi artem eisagoge, seu introductio, Hagenau, 1531, first edition of Fuchs's second book, an introduction to practical medicine, and others ($15,000 to $20,000).

A later anatomy work is Paolo Mascagni, Anatomia Universale with 150 engraved plates reduced from the 1822-32 double elephant folio original edition, Florence, 1833 ($8,000 to $12,000). Additional medical highlights include Guido Guidi’s Latin translation of a 10th-century manuscript of Greek writings on surgery, Chirurgia è Graeco in Latinum conversa, Vido Vidio Florentino interprete, with his own commentary and observations, and 210 woodcut text illustrations showing bandaging techniques and surgical and orthopedic apparatuses, Paris, 1544, considered one of the most beautiful scientific books of the Renaissance ($8,000 to $12,000).

Another stunning scientific work is Adam Ludwig Wirsing, Marmora et adfines aliquos lapides coloribus suis . . . A Representation of Different Sort of Marble, Ingraved and set out in their Natural Colours, with 98 (of 101) meticulously hand-colored engraved plates depicting 559 varieties of ornamental marble and stone, Amsterdam, 1776 ($8,000 to $12,000).

One of the best-known scientific books from the 19th century is also offered, Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, first edition, limited to 1250 copies, London, 1859 ($20,000 to $30,000). 

A choice selection of books on dentistry includes Pierre Fauchard, Le Chirurgien Dentiste . . . Deuxième ?dition revûë, corrigée & considérablement augmentée, with 42 engraved plates of teeth, dental instruments and dentures, Paris, 1746 ($2,000 to $3,000); first editions of John Hunter, The Natural History of the Human Teeth: Explaining their Structure, Use, Formation, Growth, and Diseases, and A Practical Treatise on the Diseases of the Teeth, two volumes in one, London, 1771 and 1778 ($3,000 to $5,000); and Joseph Fox, The Natural History of the Human Teeth, first edition of Fox’s classic treatise on the teeth, the first to include explicit directions for correcting dental irregularities and the first work on orthodontics, London, 1803 ($1,500 to $2,500).

Early printed highlights include one of only six known copies of a first edition, first issue of the full score of George Frederick Handel’s Messiah. An Oratorio in Score as it was originally perform'd, London, 1767 ($15,000 to $20,000).

Among diverse literary examples are the Works of Homer, first edition in the original Greek published outside of Italy, from the press of the scholar-printer Thierry Martens, who pioneered the printing of Greek in the Low Countries, Louvain, 1523 ($8,000 to $12,000); and John Milton, Paradise Lost, lavishly bound by James Scott of Edinburgh, in a striking departure from the binding styles then prevalent in Scotland, Glasgow, 1770 ($8,000to $12,000).

Featured works on philosophy are a first Aldine edition of the chief work by Cardinal Bessarion, the Greek émigré scholar and religious leader, In calumniatorem Platonis libri quatuor, originally published in 1469, defending Platonism and its compatibility with Christianity, Venice, July 1503 ($8,000 to $12,000); and a first complete edition of Plato’s Opera quae extant omnia, Greek text with Latin translation by Jean de Serres, Geneva, 1578 ($6,000 to $9,000).

A culinary highlight is Bartolomeo Scappi, Opera, a fifth edition of the foremost culinary treatise of the Italian Renaissance by virtue of its unprecedented size, scope and illustrations of kitchen interiors and utensils, Venice, 1598 ($5,000 to $7,000).  


The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 1. The books will be on public exhibition Saturday, April 26, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday, April 28 through Wednesday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday, May 1, 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

First image: Sammelband of scarce German Renaissance medical imprints, which includes Giacomo Berengario da Carpi, Isagogae breves et exactissimae in anatomiam humani corporis, Strassburg, 1530. Estimate: $15,000 to $20,000.

Second image: Collage of 15th century northern France miniatures, mostly scenes from the life of Christ, within a frame of 21 cuttings from illuminated borders, all excised from a vellum liturgical manuscript. Estimate: $8,000 to $12,000.