Central Asian Travel Books Exceeded Expectations at Swann Galleries

Lot-240-Serindia copy.jpgNew York—Swann Galleries’ April 12 auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books brought over $475,000, with travel books and manuscript material performing particularly well.

Specialist Tobias Abeloff said, “Early English books and manuscripts and works on Central Asia by the scholar-explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein were the most sought-after items in this strong sale.”

The strongest performers, among the many lots related to Hungarian-British archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein, were a first edition of Stein’s magnum opus, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, Oxford, 1921, which realized $18,750*; and a first edition of The Thousand Buddhas: Ancient Buddhist Paintings from the Cave-Temples of Tun-huang in the Western Frontier of China, London, 1921, a collection of plates reproducing paintings recovered during his 1906-08 expedition, which brought $6,000. Other travel books that sold well included a third edition of Gottlieb William Leitner’s The Languages and Races of Dardistan, Lahore, 1878, which eclipsed its high estimate, selling for $2,210; and a first edition of Oscar Johannes Ludwig Eckenstein’s The Karakorams and Kashmir. An Account of a Journey, London, 1896, which more than doubled its high estimate when it brought $2,600.

Among the manuscript materials, a work in English by Robert Robinson titled A Miscelany of Meditations, Sentences, Observations, Characters, and Essayes, London, 1659 was among the top lots of the sale, realizing $30,000. Other top-performing items included [Forest Laws], seventy manuscript vellum leaves detailing laws on hunting rights, land use and more, Great Britain, circa 1600, which brought $6,500. A manuscript in French titled Recueil de Piéces Érotiques et d’autre Genre, consisting of excerpts from writings by the Marquis de Sade and many others, [France], 1822, brought $1,125.

Standouts among the early printed books included a third edition of Giovanni Boccaccio’s A Treatise … shewing … the falles of sondry most notable Princes and Princesses, London, (1554), which sold for $13,750; a first edition of Nova legenda Anglie, (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1516), which realized $10,625; and a first edition of Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft, London, 1584, which brought $30,000. Theatrical works also sold well, with a first edition of Sir William Davenant’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, London, 1674, selling for $30,000; and a first collected edition, three-volume set of The Workes by Ben Jonson, London, 1640-41, realizing $7,500.

The department’s next auction will occur in October 2016. For further information, or to consign items to upcoming Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Book auctions, please contact Specialist Tobias Abeloff: tabeloff@swanngalleries.com, or via phone at 212-254-4710, ex.18.

Complete results are available online via www.swanngalleries.com.

*Prices include buyer’s premium. 

Lot 240 Sir Marc Aurel Stein, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, first edition, Oxford, 1921. Sold April 12, 2016 for $18,750. (Pre-sale estimate $6,000 to $9,000)

Auction Guide