Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2010 Issue

Important Maps to test the Market

Blaeu

Blaeu's Atlas Major, Amsterdam, 1662-1681 in a bespoke cabinet

By Bruce McKinney

In a day or two Sotheby's will add an auction to its calendar. It will be the necessary next step for Frank Benevento, a map collector who entered the collecting field a decade ago, began to acquire important maps, and now confronts serious health issues and other priorities.

His sale, The Frank A. Benevento II Collection of Important Maps and Atlases, will be sold in London during Map Week. The date is May 6th. In the short decade Mr. Benevento has collected, he acquired many important early maps - often from the leading map dealers. Highlights of the sale will be on exhibit in New York April 8-13. In London the pre-sale exhibition begins on April 29.

In an official statement Sotheby's describes the collection this way:

"The Benevento collection contains a wealth of treasures of the map-maker's art. These range from some of the earliest depictions of the known world, to masterpieces of the Renaissance, showing the earliest mapping of the New World and Asia and culminating in the seventeenth century "golden age" of cartography, exemplified by Blaeu’s monumental Atlas Major."

Catherine Slowther, who runs the map department at Sotheby's in London has scheduled the sale for maximum effect. "Frank's sale coincides with our flagship various-owners auction of high-value atlases, maps and travel books, which always attracts the top collectors and dealers." The introduction to the catalogue, written by Ashley Baynton-Williams, describes the collection this way:

"The core of the collection is centred on Italian cartographers, particularly Giacomo Gastaldi from the 1540s to 1560s, and Vincenzo Maria Coronelli from the 1680s and 1690s, two figures of Europe-wide reputation, who form neat bookmarks for a time when, for long periods, Italian mapmakers played a leading role in forming the European world view. Gastaldi was the outstanding European cartographer of his period; while there are other challengers for the title, he is perhaps the mapmaker most responsible for breaking the Ptolemaic stranglehold on cartography, undertaking the re-mapping of the world that formed the foundations on which the future generations such as Mercator based their work. The 1548 edition of Ptolemy for which he prepared the maps has been described as the first atlas of the New World, with its suite of regional maps of North and South America and the West Indies. Much of Gastaldi's work was used by the contemporary cartographic publisher, Paolo Forlani, whose work is presented in the collection, notably the landmark map of North America, from 1565.

At the other end of the date range, Coronelli was Geographer to the Venetian Republic and to the King of France, and founder of the oldest cartographical society in the world, and he played an important part in disseminating the French discoveries in the Americas to a wider audience. Not only does the Benevento collection have an example of Coronelli two-sheet map of North America, but one of Coronelli’s rarest, and finest, productions, the 'De Navalli'.

Through their position cocooned in the Mediterranean, Italian city states played little part in the trans-European colonial land-rush, but individual Italians, from Marco Polo onwards, made an important contribution to forging closer links with, and knowledge of, China, particularly through individuals, often Jesuits, such as Matteo Ricci and Martinus de Martini, author of the first published atlas of China from 1655. The collection has other notable items in the mapping of China - the first printed map of the country by another Jesuit Luiz Jorge de Barbuda, du Halde's fine three-volume description from the 1730s, as well as a series of charts from VOC sources, known as the "Secret Atlas" as the contents were restricted for use only by Dutch ships plying their trade to the Far East.

No Italian collector could conceive of a collection without art. While the boundaries between art and cartography often-times were narrow, and there are many examples of the cross-over, Frank sought out two particular rarities: a fine "Leo Belgicus", also introducing the mapmaker's esprit-de-vivre, and a set of Johannes Janssonius' carte-à-figures (maps with pictorial borders) of the four known continents.

In a nod to his new home, the collection also contains a number of landmark maps of the New World, for example Forlani and de Jode's maps of North America, as well Smith's maps of Virginia and New England, and Delisle's map of Louisiana, the last three foundation cartographic documents for the area depicted.

The culmination of the collection - and quite probably the all-time pinnacle of atlas production - is an example of Johannes Blaeu's magnificent eleven-volume world atlas - the Atlas Maior, the greatest atlas of the day, and the diplomatic gift of choice of the Dutch republic for its greatest servants and most important allies, but the collection houses other choice examples of European mapmaking at its finest, such as the Danckerts Atlas, from the end of the seventeenth century.

The period from the 1540s to 1700 or so, was the golden age of art and cartography. The so-called 'Lafreri School' dominating the mapmaking of the mid-sixteenth century, until leadership passed first to Antwerp and then to Amsterdam when cartography, under a series of Dutch masters became renown for the happy blend of art and cartography - the "Golden Age of Dutch Cartography" - that, to this day, delights the eye.

Mr Benevento bought well but bought late in the bull market for maps and faces less enthusiasm in the rooms than he experienced when buying just a few years ago. His sale will provide an important test of buyer interest.

According to Graham Arader "Frank has brought extraordinary enthusiasm to his collecting. He was, for a few short years totally committed and as well read on the subject as any collector I have known. In that time he purchased many important maps which the market will be anxious to bid on in May. That his focus has shifted is disappointing but understandable."

The introduction to the sale catalogue, due to be released in mid-March, concludes [and I paraphrase]:

Frank's ambition was to capture the essence of the golden age of cartography - 1540-1700. However, circumstances have conspired against him, so the collection returns to the market all-to-soon, but the many treasures assembled in such a short period are sure to bring joy to their new owners.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <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>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Copper Printing Plate for "Marshall's Household Engraving of Washington." $500 to $1000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Important Documentary Painting Showing Baseball Great Ty Cobb in Cuba. $1,000 to $2,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> <i>Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age</i>, Inscribed by Bill Wilson. $500 to $1,000
    <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983), <i>Prise à l'hameçon.</i> $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Maurice Dufrène (French, 1876-1955), <i>Rayon des Soieries</i>. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> William Pope.L (American, b. 1955), <i>Intimacy Project</i>. $2,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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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