New York - Swann Auction Galleries’ auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books on Tuesday, October 16 garnered eager interest from bibliophiles, exceeding the sale’s high estimate and earning more than 750K. In a focused offering with just under 300 lots, 95% of works found buyers, with particularly active bidding for incunabula, Philippine imprints and works on science. Tobias Abeloff, Specialist of Early Printed Books at Swann Galleries, noted of the sale, “Heavy bidding on illustrated incunabula and a scarce early Philippine navigation manual pushed prices well above their estimates.”
The top lot of the sale was a fifteenth-century edition of Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land, Strassburg, 1488, by Jean de Mandeville, which sold for $106,250. The book, a seventh edition in German, translated by Otto von Diemeringen, is especially noteworthy as an account of the known world dating from the mid-fourteenth century and mentions the Holy Land, routes there from Europe, and Asia and Africa.
Additional incunables featured Giovanni Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus, Louvain, 1487, the third edition of the first published work of female biography, as well as its first edition in Spanish, De las mujeres illustres en roma[n]ce, Zaragoza, 1494. The books reached $27,500 and $45,000, respectively. A first edition of the rule of St. Benedict establishing guidelines for monastic life, published 1490, Venice, earned $7,500.
Philippine imprints did exceptionally well with José Bueno Cabrera González’s Navegación Especulativa, y Prácica, Manila, 1734, bringing $55,000, a record for the work. Other notable Philippine works included a first edition of a history of the Franciscan mission to the Far East by Juan Francisco de San Antonio (Price Realized: $18,750); Juan de la Concepción’s Historia General de Philipinas, Manila, 1788-92 ($16,250); and a first edition of Pedro S.J. Murillo Velarde’s Historia de la provincial de la Compañia de Jesús, Manila, 1749 ($6,500).
A popular selection of scientific works was led by a first edition of James Clerk Maxwell’s classic A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, Oxford, 1873, which brought $7,800. A first edition of an account of Robert Hutchings Goddard’s early jet propulsion experiments, A method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, Washington, D.C., 1919, garnered $7,500; and a first edition in English, from a limited 350 copies, of Sir Isaac Newton’s Two Treatises of the Quadrature of Curves, London, 1745, sold for $7,250.
The next auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books at Swann Galleries will be held in Spring 2019. The house accepts consignments on a rolling basis: contact Tobias Abeloff, firstname.lastname@example.org, with inquiries.
Image: Lot 93: Jean de Mandeville, Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land, Strassburg, 1488. Sold for $106,250.