Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2010 Issue

Some Interesting Items Appear At Auction

Globusmundimap

Early map shows a small piece of the New World in the left corner.


By Michael Stillman

Some surprising, interesting, and historically important material regularly finds its way to the auction rooms. There is much to be found and learned if you keep your eyes open. Here are a few items that caught our eye as they passed through the rooms recently.

This one has to be included among the surprises, at least for the auction house's estimator. Its significance must have escaped that individual's notice, but it did not slip past the notice of bidders. On February 2, French auction house ALDE held an auction of antiquarian and modern books. All told, there were 477 lots, anticipated to take in something between €224,000 and €291,000 (US $307,000 and 398,000). Among them was an unassuming 14-page pamphlet published anonymously in Strassburg in 1509, with the Latin title, Globus Mundi Declaratio sive descriptio mundi...

It must not have appeared all that significant, but to those who collect Americana, or European Americana, this is a major piece. It contains one of the first maps to display America, albeit a very tiny piece, and it is the first book to unreservedly give this new land the name "America." This is of major significance as it helps define how the New World came to be known as "America," for Amerigo Vespucci, when it really should have been named "Columbia" for Christopher Columbus. He was the "discoverer," preceding Vespucci.

On the lower left edge of the globe-shaped map, west of Africa, is a tiny edge of a continent, labeled as the "new world." Then, in the text, the unknown author compares the world to the human body, writing, "The head is the East or Asia; feet the West and America, newly discovered, fourth part of the globe." Africa and Europe constituted the arms. Just two years earlier, Martin Waldseemuller, in his 1507 map, had made reference to the land as "America," though he may have simply been confused as to its discoverer. When he republished his map a few years later, he removed all reference to "America." However, these early notations determined how we would label the world. So, once a year we honor Columbus by celebrating his day, but every day, millions of times all over the world, we remember Vespucci by uttering his name.

While the significance of this item may have been overlooked at first by the cataloguer, the bidders did not miss it. It was estimated at €4,000-5,000 (US $5,500-6,850), but when the hammer came down, the price all-in was €600,000 (US $821,000). That was 120 to 150 times the estimate, and in fact, was more than double the high estimate for the entire 477-lot auction. Sometimes pleasant surprises do come in small packages.

An auction containing some spectacular manuscript material took place in late January at Sprink Shreve Galleries in New York, a house more often associated with stamps. We write more about this $8 million auction elsewhere in this issue of AE Monthly, but here we will focus on a couple of the items, rather than the auction itself. The collection came from the estate of Floyd E. Risvold, of Edina, Minnesota. Risvold, who traveled the American West in the 1930s and 40s and developed a love for all things Western and American, died last year at the age of 97. He returned to Minnesota where he operated the family clothing distribution business while building his collection. He sold the business when he reached the age of 72, but kept and increased the collection for the remaining 25 years of his life. His collection contained items relating to the early days of the United States, the Civil War, western expansion, Indian treaties, the Pony Express, railroads, Mormons, the fur trade, California Gold Rush, and the Minnesota Territory. His varied collection was driven by a desire to find one or a few key documents on a subject, rather than a wide array of material focused on a small niche.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <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, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions