Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2017 Issue

A Busy November in Books for Sotheby's London


Highlight lots from Sotheby's London busy November

It’s a busy November for Sotheby’s, and their London office is no exception. Three noteworthy sales may pique your interest:

  1. The Library of an English Bibliophile Part VII - November 7
  2. Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History - November 14
  3. Musical Manuscripts - November 28

Beginning with The Library of an English Bibliophile, the man behind the collection began acquiring over 50 years ago, and this is the seventh sale of his material since 2010. Part VII contains a great deal of important literature, and three of the four lots carrying the highest estimates fall under this category: a second (but first published) edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a first edition of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, and an inscribed copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest

The Library of an English Bibliophile Part VII is set to take place on November 7 at 10:30 AM BST and its catalog is viewable here.


Travels, Atlases, Maps and Natural History is a sale containing the rare lot that carries an estimate of £500,000+. Petrus Apianus’ Astronomicum Caesareum is a big deal. Here’s what Sotheby’s has to say about it:


THE MAGNIFICENT J.R. ABBEY COPY OF “THE MOST SPECTACULAR CONTRIBUTION OF THE BOOK MAKER’S ART TO SIXTEENTH-CENTURY SCIENCE” (Gingerich). COPIES AT AUCTION IN CONTEMPORARY BINDINGS ARE OF THE UTMOST RARITY; the last comparable example at auction was the Horblit-Patiño copy, sold in our New York rooms, 21 April 1998. The present copy has a similar distinguished provenance, having formerly been in the library of Major John Roland Abbey (1894–1969), the most prolific English bibliophile of his day, whose collection was famed for its fine condition and quality of binding.

This Astronomicum Caesareum, dedicated to Emperor Charles V and King Ferdinand, has been described as "a miracle of printing in folio format: most of the astronomical schemes and instruments have up to six movable parts. Apian received three thousand gold florins from the dedicatees [and] personal appointment as court mathematician" (Woodward). This work contains a broad analysis of Ptolemaic astronomy and 'is notable for Apianus’ pioneering observations of comets (he describes the appearances and characteristics of five comets, including Halley's) and his statement that comets point their tails away from the sun' (DSB). The text also describes the use of solar eclipses to measure longitude; the author’s inventions of the meteorscope (for solving problems in spherical trigonometry) and the torquetum (a predecessor of the equatorial telescope); and a variety of astrological concerns. Most of Apianus’ observations and theories are illustrated by his inclusion of intricate volvelles, which he believed to be of greater use in providing information on the position and movement of celestial bodies, rather than mathematical formulae. 

APIANUS IS ALSO NOTED FOR INTRODUCING ARABIC STAR NAMES INTO HIS MAPS. In the present work Apianus includes a revision of his 1536 star chart, with the addition of two more Arabic star names (Angentenar in Eridanus, and Yed in Ophiuchus), and two Latin star names which do not appear the 1536 edition. Apianus knew the work of Islamic astronomer Abu 'l-Husain al-Sufi (A.D. 903-986). "Al-Sufi, in his Book on the constellations (written around A.D. 964), gave a detailed account of the 48 classical constellations (which the Arabs knew through translations of Greek astronomical works and through pictorial  representations on globes from other sources), complemented by records of star names of indigenous Arabic origin which he took pains to identify astronomically with the respective Ptolemaic stars. It was from this section on the indigenous Arabic star names in al-Sufi's book that Apian extracted a number of names and mentioned them in his own writings, most of them in the chapter in constellations in his Astronomicum Caesareum of 1540" (Kunitzsch). 

The collation of the work is understandably complex. Gingerich calls for an ideal copy to have 83 volvelles, as here.


Travels, Atlases, Maps and Natural History will take place November 14 at 11 AM BST. The catalog is viewable here.


Finally, towards the end of November, Musical Manuscripts as of the writing of this article is advertising a single headlining lot: the complete autograph manuscript by Béla Bartók of his Second Rhapsody for violin and piano from 1928. No complete autographed work by Bartók has ever appeared at auction. Needless to say, estimates are lofty, set between £150,000 and £200,000.

Musical Manuscripts is scheduled for 2:30 PM BST on November 28th. The catalog is not yet viewable online, but more information about the sale is available here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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