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>19th Century Shop.</b> KEY, FRANCIS SCOTT. <i>A Celebrated Patriotic Song, the Star Spangled Banner.</i> 1814.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> [COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER, Amerigo Vespucci ..] Bernardus Albingaunensis .. Dialogo nuperrime edito Genue in 1512.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies,</i> 1632.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (WATKINS, TABER &c.). <i>An album of 32 photographs of the Yosemite and American West Various places</i>, c. 1890s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (BATTLE OF CONCORD.) <i>Powder horn used by Minuteman Oliver Buttrick at the Battle of Concord</i>, April 19, 1775.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (CIVIL WAR.) <i>An Extraordinary Confederate Photograph and Autograph Album of Dr. R. L. C. White</i>, 125 original mounted salt prints. 1859-61.
  • 20 Jul 2016, starts at 1pm EDT, NY
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Full scale vintage <i>Sputnik-1</i> EMC/EMI Lab Model, with live transmitter. US$ 10,000-15,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown SOYUZ-3 space navigation indicator with unflown on-ground transformer. <br>US$ 30,000-40,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown on SOYUZ 9<br>An exhaustive manuscript on life in space. [Trans: On-Board Flight Journal for Spacecraft Soyuz-9, 1970]. US$ 6,000-9,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> SOYUZ 18? Flown Navigation Celestial Globe. Soyuz 18 lasted from May 24-July 26, 1975. US$ 30,000-40,000
    20 Jul 2016, starts at 1pm EDT, NY
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown Space Suit from ISS Expidition 6. Worn by Flight Engineer Don Pettit on his dramitic return to earth. US$ 25,000-35,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Original Gemini 133P Trainer Assembly Five Part Electrical System & Attitude Maneuver ... US$ 60,000-90,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Lunar Rover Development. Collection of 11 vintage gelatin silver prints and 4 vintage NASA lithographs. <br>US$ 2,000-3,000.
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Lunar Orbiter I. The first image of the earth as seen from the moon. Gelatin silver print. August 23, 1966. US$ 2,500-3,500
    20 Jul 2016, starts at 1pm EDT, NY
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Michael Collins' Flown Crew-Signed Apollo 11 Emblem. One of the very few Armstrong signed mission artifacts. US$ 50,000-70,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown Apollo 11 Navigational Chart. Taken to Lunar surface mapping the start of the <br>first manned lunar descent. <br>US$ 25,000-35,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> FFlown Apollo 11 Flight Plan Sheetmission Day One. Some of the first words and data values written by Neil Armstrong. US$ 18,000-25,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Apollo 12 - Alan Bean in the Ocean of Storms. Signed and inscribed by Bean. <br>US$ 2,000-3,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,<br><i>The Chap Book</i>, 1896.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,<br><i>Troupe de Mlle Églantine</i>, 1896.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Philippe Henri Noyer, <br><i>Limonade Brault</i>, 1938. <br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b> <br><i>The Great Men of the World</i>,<br>designer unknown, circa 1945-46. <br>$7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>James Montgomery Flagg,<br><i>Wake Up, America!</i>, 1917.<br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Alfred F. Burke, <i>Share / Jewish <br>Relief Campaign</i>, circa 1915.<br>$3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Ludwig Hohlwein, <i>Marke Pkz / <br>Burger - Kehl & Co.</i>, circa 1911. <br>$8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b> <br>Gian Emilio Malerba,<i> E.A. Mele / Modo e Novita per Signora</i>, circa 1900. $7,000 to $10,000.

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