- La Fontaine, Fables Choisies... (Paris, 1755-59). 4 thick in-folio volumes, in their original boards. Appraisal : 5,000 / 6,000 euros.
When the young and charming assistant from Alde dropped the four heavy volumes in front of me, I felt at once disheartened by the deteriorated binding. In fact, there was no binding. And that is the unusual specificity of this copy, it has remained in its original state : with the printer’s boards and its full margins. “The engravings, preserved from the press, have kept all their relief ”, reads the catalogue. “ This is the first unbound and uncut copy our expert has come across in more than forty years !” boasted Mr. Delcamp during the sale. The books were sold for 7,500 euros (before the commission), quite a good score though Mr. Delcamp was disappointed : “Unlike the French, the English are fond of that type of copies, and we expected more of them to manifest.”
- Herrera, Histoire Générale des voyages et conquestes des Castillan... (Paris 1660 – 1671). 3 in-4° volumes. Appraisal : 3,000 / 4,000 euros.
Quite a high estimation to me, according to the very poor condition of the bindings. This Americana set of books is one of the most sought-after and is quite rare indeed. The author deeply inspired himself from the famous secret manuscript of Las Casas and published a masterpiece that remains a trustworthy historical source. Several people had asked to be called on the telephone and the item went for 4,600 euros. “Well, says Mr. Delcamp, it is a book about America. Any time you have something about the Indes Occidentales (West-Indies), it sells very well.”
- Tortorel et Perrissini. Quarante tableaux (...) touchant les guerres, massacres et troubles advenus en France ces dernières années (1570). 1 in-folio volume, full contemporary vellum. Appraisal : 10,000 / 12,000 euros.
“I’m not very old,” smiles Mr. Delcamp, “but that was the first time I could set my eyes on this legendary collection of engravings.” Published right in the middle of the French religious wars of the 16th century, it brings us back to terrible times. The bibliographer for the sale, Jean Lequoy, introduced it to me, and I could feel his emotion as he was speaking : “At the time, the use of copper plates was very new. They used wood plates instead. Some of these were printed from copper plates and as they were less common, they tend to be more valued - though the result is sometimes a little blurry.” One of these engravings graced the cover of the catalogue. “They are like pictures,” says Mr. Lequoy. “On this one, Anne du Bourg directly talks to Henri II in the Parliament, to blame his attitude towards the Protestants ! The people drawn here were present during this historical day.” The young assistant pulled a wry face in front of the next plate : “These beheaded corpses are so... gloomy !” Indeed, the engravings have a disturbing strength, re-enforced by the fact that they came out just before the Saint Barthelemy, one of the darkest nights in French history. The binding was a little bit worn but still fresh. It went for 14,500 euros.
- Van Noort, Description du pénible voyage... (Amsterdam, 1602). 1 in-folio volume, modern vellum binding (by Dechauvelle). Appraisal : 15,000 / 20,000 euros.
First was Magellan, then came Francis Drake... then Van Noort. This Dutch seaman became, in 1598, the third man in the history of mankind to circumnavigate the globe. A very “pénible” (difficult, as the title reads) voyage, indeed, full of mutinies, epidemics and pirates ! This first French edition is almost nowhere to be bought and is illustrated with 26 engravings (views, maps and portraits). A buyer from America could not be reached on the phone before the sale but Mr. Delcamp seems to be satisfied with the 15,700 euros collected for this item. “A respected bookseller from Paris did not go over 15,500 euros for this book. So I guess we had reached the actual price for this copy in a modern full vellum binding.”