With fall officially upon us, the auction field has shaken off its quiet summer slumber and the calendar is once again chock-full of sales. One such sale taking place this month is Swann Auction Galleries’ Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books, which is scheduled for Tuesday, October 18th. With 334 lots spanning incunabula to the 20th century, Swann has included a mélange of items that will appeal to collectors with many different focuses, from mathematics, to naval navigation, to mountaineering—these are just a few of the subjects you will find on offer.
One of the sale’s earliest printed items is Euclid’s Elementa geometriae. Math fanatics are likely familiar; this is the “foundation text of geometry, the first major mathematical work to appear in print” (Swann). The copy up for sale is a first edition, printed in Venice in 1482 by Erhard Ratdolt, an early German printer known for his innovations related to layout and typography. Euclid’s work would be equally at home in a collection of incunabula, mathematics, or Venice printings. It carries the sale’s highest estimate of $60,000 – 80,000 as lot 147.
Books on travel make up a large part of the sale and the last lot, 334, is one that bears mentioning. Rodrigo Zamorano was a cosmographer and pilot major at the Casa de Contratación, Spain’s government agency in charge of controlling Spanish exploration and colonization from the 16th to 18th centuries. In 1581 his Compendido del Arte de Navegar, a standard Spanish navigation manual was printed for the first time. Swann’s sale includes a fourth edition, printed in 1588, and they note that the Compendido is “scarce in all editions.” Lot 334 is estimated $20,000 – 25,000.
Other interesting travel material include:
- Jean-Baptiste Du Halde’s Description Géographique, Historique, Chronologique, Politique, et Physique de l'Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise, a 1735 first edition of what was then the most comprehensive European work on China. It features 65 engraved plates and maps, most which are double-page or folding. Lot 219, est. $15,000 – 20,000.
- Edmund Thomas Coleman’s Scenes from the Snow-Fields; being, Illustrations of the Upper Ice World of Mont Blanc from Sketches made on the Spot in the Years 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858, a first edition printed in 1859, called “one of the rarest and most valuable of all mountaineering books” (Neate C92). Lot 207, est. $4,000 – 6,000.
- Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, another first edition, printed in 1726, with an engraved frontispiece portrait and five maps. Lot 102, est. $3,000 – 5,000.
Science books are in the sale’s name and while Euclid’s Elementa is undoubtedly the brightest highlight, lot 157 is also of true significance. Sir Isaac Newton was a titan of science, and lot 157 represents the opportunity to own a first edition, first issue, of one of his works, Opticks. Contained within are a summary of Newton’s discoveries and theories related to light and color, as well as two mathematical treatises in Latin, printed with the purpose of proving he invented calculus and not Leibnitz. Newton’s Opticks is estimated $15,000 – 25,000.
Swann Auction Galleries’ sale of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books will take place on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at 1:30 pm eastern time at Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street in New York. The catalog can be viewed online here. Previews will be available on these days:
- October 14: 10 am – 6 pm
- October 15: 12 – 5 pm
- October 17: 10 am – 6 pm
- October 18: 10 am – 12 pm
Bidding is available in the standard methods: in person, absentee, online, and telephone. All methods require registration with Swann prior to the sale.