50 Exceptional Items From Asher Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Asher Rare Books has recently issued its Jubilee Catalogue 35--A selection of 50 interesting Atlases, Books, Charts, Manuscripts and Maps. Asher Rare Books has been in the book business for 175 years. Started by Adolphus Asher in 1830, the firm counted among its clients in those early days scientists such as Darwin and Humboldt. After over a century in Berlin, Asher moved to Amsterdam during the darkening days in Germany of 1933. A decade ago, the firm made one more move, to Ijmuiden, to the west of Amsterdam.
Asher Rare Books lists its specialties as natural history, science, and travel and voyages. Here are a few of the items among their selection of fifty very special works.
Item 1, shown on the catalogue's cover (see image to the left) is a watercolor by famed flower artist Pierre Joseph Redoute. Born in Luxembourg in 1759, Redoute would develop his drawing skills, and his specialty in flowers, in France. He would be appointed an art teacher to Queen Marie-Antoinette in the 1780s. When she lost her head, quite literally, Redoute would receive appointments as artists to both of Napoleon's wives. His reputation grew like the flowers he painted, and Redoute would come to be known as one of the greatest botanic painters who ever lived. Evidently aspiring American birds artist John James Audubon met Redoute during a visit to Paris in 1828 and considered this meeting the highlight of his trip. This watercolor features three open flowers, all varieties of anemone, with the buds of a ranunculus and sweet pea in the background. The drawing is signed "P.J. Redoute." Priced at €65,000 (Euros).
Item 10 is the first French edition (a year after the first German) of Brieve & Fidele Exposition de l'Origin....de l'Eglise de l'Unite des freres.... This is a history of the Moravian United Brethren, particularly their work in Greenland, as well as with American Indians (likely in Pennsylvania) and black slaves in the West Indies. The book is noted for its illustrations, which cover two pages, of various ceremonies, including baptisms, exorcism, marriage, feet washing, and the "holy kiss." This book, printed in 1758, states no author or place of printing, though it is most often attributed to David Cranz, and Asher believes, contrary to earlier assumptions, that it was also printed in Germany, as was the German first edition. €4,500.
Item 15 is Theologia Mystica cum Speculative....by Hendrik Herpf. This is an abbreviated collection of works written by the 15th century theologian published in Cologne in 1538. Herpf is noted for mysticism in his theology, and while this book was very popular, it was placed on the prohibited list for awhile until certain offending sections were removed. This copy comes with a notable provenance. It was once owned by Pope Pius VI and contains his gold-tooled coat of arms. Pius VI served as Pope from 1775-1799, a long rule in what was a very difficult time for the Church. Its authority was challenged, first in Germany, and then France with the French Revolution. Church property in France was seized, and later Napoleon would invade its home territory in Rome. Pius VI was forcibly removed, and brought to several places, culminating with a trip over the Alps by the seriously ill Pope to Valence, France, where he died a short time later. Residents of Baltimore may recall this Pope for establishing the Diocese of Baltimore in 1789. €7,500.