Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2010 Issue

Christie's to Host $20-$30 Million Auction of Illuminated Manuscripts and Books

Cauchonhours

The Cauchon Hours will likely sell for $1-$2 million.


By Michael Stillman

Christie's will be auctioning what they describe as "the most valuable collection of illuminated manuscripts ever offered at auction" in London on July 7. The mere 48 items are projected to take in £11 to £16 million, or roughly $17-24.5 million in U.S. Currency. Throw in buyer's premiums and this sale could approach $30 million. For a sale in the book category, this amount is astounding. Of course, these are not primarily printed books, but manuscripts that run along the border between text and art, an admittedly more expensive category.

The items set to be auctioned are known as the Arcana Collection, which could refer to either the rarity and obscurity of the works, or the unknown nature of its collector. He has chosen to remain anonymous. [Editor's Note: see addendum at end of article] He has been collecting this material for three decades, and we understand he is an American businessman. Christie's notes that he has "generously supported public institutions with holdings in this field." Here is another interesting point - the full name of the sale is The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts and Incunabula Part I. Yes, there is still more to come. We do not know how much more material there is, or how many further sales will be necessary, but it is probably safe to assume that there are more very valuable works to come.

Margaret Ford, Head of Books and Manuscripts at Christie's, London, stated, "This is a truly exceptional collection which presents illuminated manuscripts and incunabula in all their glory. They are masterpieces of medieval and renaissance art, many commissioned by important patrons. It has been the aesthetic aspect of these masterpieces which has appealed in particular to this private collector and excited his curiosity to acquire and learn more about them." Ms. Ford also pointed out that many of these works come with a most distinguished provenance.

Expected to garner the highest price is a 13th century Italian manuscript Bible, with extensive and "exquisite" painted illustrations. It was apparently produced for the use of a convent of Dominican friars, though some of the "fantastical creations" are not what one would usually expect in an order's Bible. Its calendar notes the passing of Theodoric Borgognoni, who was a Dominican friar, Bishop of Cervia, and one of the most important surgeons of his day, developing the use of antiseptics and anesthetics, and personally serving popes. The estimated price for this Bible is £2,500,000 - £3,500,000 (US $3.8 - $5.4 million).

Almost as highly estimated is a Book of Hours and Psalter from the 14th century that belonged to Countess Elizabeth de Bohun. She was from one of the noblest of English families and could therefore have afforded the best. Her great-granddaughter would become the wife of Henry IV (though not Queen as she died before he ascended to the throne), but her great-great grandson ruled as Henry V. The Psalter's later provenance includes William Waldorf Astor, who loaned it to an exhibition used to help raise funds to build the Statue of Liberty. This book is estimated at £2,000,000 - £3,000,000 (US $3.1 - $4.6 million).

The Cauchon Hours were created in the middle of the 15th century for a noble couple from Rheims in France. The couple is portrayed as a knight and his lady. It, too, is beautifully illustrated. Estimated at £800,000 - £1,200,000 (US $1.2 - 1.8 million). A Book of Hours produced for King Francois I of France is estimated at £300,000 - £500,000 (US $450,000 - $750,000). Francois, who was King from 1515-1547, was a man of impeccable taste. He lavishly supported art and culture, including supporting an artist with whom he became close in that man's later years, Leonardo Da Vinci. Francois was the first purchaser and owner of the Mona Lisa, having purchased it from Da Vinci's estate.

Other items being offered include an Epistres d'Ovide, the earliest French translation of Ovid's Heroines, made for Anne of Brittany. Anne was married to one Holy Roman Emperor (annulled) and two French Kings, and was mother-in-law to the aforementioned Francois I. Her repeated royalty did not make for an easy life, as Anne had 14 children, only two of whom survived to be more than three years of age. Estimated £500,000 - £800,000 (US $750,000 - $1,200,000). There is also a copy of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, an Italian Renaissance book once owned by Jean Grolier. Estimated £220,000 - £260,000 (US $335,000 - $400,000).

Addendum: The Financial Times of London announced that the seller is "Ladislaus von Hoffmann, a secretive Washington-based financier."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b><br>Lot 14. Blaeu,<i>Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula</i>, 1635. Est. $14000-$16000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b><br>Lot 305. Arrowsmith, <i>Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas</i>, 1841. Est. $18000-$20000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b><br>Lot 256. Thackara, <i>Plan of the City<br>of Washington in the Territory of Columbia</i>, 1792. Est. $13000-$16000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 188. Browne/Senex, A New<br>Map of Virginia Mary-land, 1719. <br>Est. $5500-$6500
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 47. Cellarius, <i>Scenographia Systematis Copernicani</i>, 1708.<br>Est. $2400-$3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 6. Ortelius, <i>Typus Orbis Terrarum</i>, 1571. Est. $7000-$8500
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 413. De Medina, <i>Mundo Novo,</i> 1554. Est. $7000-$9000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 37. Jansson, <i>Histoire des Grands Chemins de l'Empire Romain</i>, 1736. Est. $3000-$3750
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 798. Le Rouge, <i>Atlas Nouveau Portatif a l'Usage des Militaires</i>, 1748. Est. $2400-$3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 60. Munster, <i>Tabula Novarum Insularum</i>, 1559. Est. $5500-$7000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 122. Morden, <i>A New Map of the English Empire in America</i>, 1695. <br>Est. $14000-$16000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 291. J.J. Stoner, Niagara-Falls, <br>N.Y., 1882. Est. $1600-$1900
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 797. Sanson, <i>Die Gantze Erd-Kugel</i> ... Europa, Asia, Africa und America, 1679. Est. $8000-$10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 799. Lotter/Lobeck, Atlas Geographicus Portatilis, 1760.<br>Est. $1600-$1900
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 808. Railroad Companies, [<i>Manuscript Railroad Atlas</i>], 1890.<br>Est. $1000-$1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 800. Pinkerton, <i>A Modern Atlas</i>, 1815. Est. $8000-$10000
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. <i>A superb collection of manuscripts signed by Lincoln and relics related to Lincoln’s death</i>. Washington, 1864-1865
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Rare Relic of the Underground Railroad (1857). <i>$500 Reward Ran away ...</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CARTER, SUSANNAH. <i>The Frugal Housewife,</i> (1772) the second American cookbook, plates by Paul Revere.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> SCHIRRA, WALTER M.. Icon of the American Space Program. <i>A Complete Set of Schirra’s Flight Log Books (1947-69).</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> A fine pair of daguerreotypes, one a black nurse holding a white baby, the other the white parents. Maryland, c. 1853.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Internet. (COMPUTERS.) CERF, VINTON & KAHN, ROBERT. <i>"A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication" in IEEE Transactions on Communications.</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs<br>& Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Marcus A. Root, "<i>General Tom Thumb</i>" with parents, daguerreotype, circa 1846. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> William Saunders, <i>Sketches of Chinese Life and Character</i>, album with 50 hand-colored photographs, 1871-72. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Wilson A. Bentley, album of 25 microphotographs from glass<br>plate negatives, 1888-1927.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs<br>& Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Hilla & Bernhard Becher, <i>Anonyme Skulpturen, Eine Typologie technischer Bauten</i>, first edition inscribed, Düsseldorf, 1970. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Edward Ruscha, four seminal artist's books in original dust jackets.<br>$1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Typological set of more than 100 photographs of WWII fighter planes, 1942-45. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b><br>Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes, <i>The Sweet Flypaper of Life</i>, first edition signed by authors, New York, 1955. $500 to $750.
  • <b>Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, February 14th, 2016.</b>
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 9. HIERONYMUS. C.340-420. <i>Epistolae. WITH: Lupus de Oliveto. Regula Monachorum ...</i> US$ 20,000-30,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 47. FROST, A.B. 1858-1921. Shooting Pictures. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.<br>US$ 10,000-15,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 53. PICASSO, PABLO, RAOUL HAUSMANN, et al. ILIAZD, ed. Poesie de mots inconnus. 1949. US$ 8,000-12,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 64. BRIGGS, HENRY. 1561-1630. <i>The North Part of America</i>. [London: 1625]. Engraved by R. Elstracke. US$ 8,000-12,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 79. COPERNICUS, NICOLAUS. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. 1566. US$ 80,000-120,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 80. DARWIN, CHARLES. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of ... US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 87. NEWTON, ISAAC, SIR. Autograph Manuscript in Latin and English [n.p., early 1670s}. US$ 100,000-150,000
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 93. Dr. Kary Mullis' 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to him for the invention of the Polymerase Chain Reaction. US$ 450,000-550,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 96.<br>CLEMENS, SAMUEL. Autograph Manuscript, nearly complete chapter 30 of <i>A Tramp Abroad</i>, c.1879.<br>US$ 20,000-30,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 105. GOLF. [MATHISON, THOMAS. d.1754.]<br><i>The Goff</i>. An Heroi-Comical Poem.<br>US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 113. JOYCE, JAMES. 1882-1941. <i>Ulysses</i>. First Edition, Presentation Copy, Signed and Inscribed by Joyce on the half-title. US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 120. LONDON, JACK. Autograph Manuscript of the short story "Flush of Gold". US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 135. STEINBECK, JOHN. Autograph Manuscript of an unpublished short story. US$ 35,000-45,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 149. GERONIMO. BARRETT, S.M., ed. Geronimo's Story of His Life. 1906. US$ 12,000-18,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 165.<br>ENOLA GAY. LEWIS, ROBERT A. An official pilot's log, 1942 to 1946.<br>US$ 50,000-80,000.

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