Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2016 Issue

50 Fine Books for Spring from Shapero Rare Books


50 fine books for spring.

Shapero Rare Books has issued a catalogue of 50 Fine Books Spring 2016. Shapero regularly publishes selections of 50 important books, thick, fully illustrated catalogues designed to do justice to the quality of material offered. The type of books presented varies widely. They range from the earliest days of printing in the middle of the 15th century, to well into the 20th. There is history, art, literature, science, exploration, private press... just about anything of the highest quality. Here are a few of these exceptional items.


We begin with the oldest item, one of the first books ever to be printed. To be more precise, it was the fourth. It was the first with a named author, those preceding it being psalters and, of course, a bible. The author was Guillelmus Durandus (or Durandi), a 13th century Bishop of Meade. The title is Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, a treatise on the church, not just the liturgy but the history of the liturgy, buildings, offices, etc. However, it is not the book's subject that is of importance but its place in printing history. It was published on October 6, 1459, printed in Mainz, Germany, as had all books up to that time. The first book, naturally, was Gutenberg's Bible, but Gutenberg ran into serious financial difficulties. Johannes Fust, who had loaned Gutenberg money, sued for nonpayment. He was awarded Guternberg's press. Together with Gutenberg's assistant, Peter Schoeffer, he went into the printing business himself. They would be more successful, the partnership continuing until Fust's death in 1766, followed by Schoeffer, his son-in-law, continuing on his own. This book was printed in two distinct versions – one with printed red or blue initials, and the other with the space left blank for hand illuminated initials. This is one of ten copies of the latter, completed by Fust's master. That individual was also responsible for illuminating some of the later copies of Gutenberg's Bible. Only two other copies of this book are known to be in private hands, and only one of those is illuminated. Item 26. Priced at £525,000 (British pounds, or approximately $746,610 U.S. dollars).


Here is another book that was written before the invention of the press, but received a treatment similar to that of Durandus, though under very different circumstances. Fust and Schoeffer were printing spectacular editions because that was all anyone knew in 1459. By the time this next book was printed, the late 19th century, presses were pumping out large reams of cheap books, designed to be read and thrown away, not treasured for generations. William Morris, an artist at heart, was not happy with this. He determined to print small runs of special books by hand, recreating the process of the earliest printers. He created his Kelmscott Press in 1891, and it lasted only half a dozen years, closing down shortly after Morris died in 1896. Kelmscott to this day is admired as the finest of the private presses. Item 21 is Kelmscott's greatest of all works, The Works, by Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1896. It is better known simply as the Kelmscott Chaucer. This book combined the exceptional printing skills of Morris with the artwork of his longtime friend and notable 19th century artist, Edward Burne-Jones. The latter provided 87 illustrations. It took them four years to complete the work, with Burne-Jones pushing ahead through long hours, fearful that Morris might not live long enough to complete the project. Morris barely made it, and Burne-Jones didn't do that much better, living only two more years. Their book will last indefinitely. £65,000 (US $92,552).


This next book is almost as old as the Durandus, but was written more than a millennium earlier. Item 33 is De antiquatate Judaica. De bello Judaica. It came just 15 years after Gutenberg's Bible, printed by Johann Schussler in Augsburg in 1470. The author of this first century book was Flavius Josephus, and it contains the history of the Jews up to that time. Josephus was a Jew who had visited Rome, but returned to Jerusalem in the year 66 on the eve of the Jewish revolt. He participated and was captured by the Romans, but was spared when he made a very wise prophesy. He predicted that Roman commander Vespasion would become emperor. That sounds like some quick thinking on Josephus' part, but it spared his life. It didn't save him from imprisonment, but when his prophesy came true three years later, he was freed, allowed to come to Rome, given a house, citizenship, and even a pension. Josephus became a Roman, but wrote the history of his birth people, particularly from Roman times but back to earliest times as well. Schussler's was the first printed edition of Josephus' works. £250,000 (US $356,052).


Shakespeare's plays were not written to be published, but to be performed. Some were published during his lifetime, but others were not. They existed only through scripts and the like. Seven years after his death, several of his friends, realizing many of his plays would soon be lost forever, gathered up what could be found, and published Mr. William Shakespear's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. The year was 1623, and that edition is commonly known as the First Folio. Three more folio editions were printed during the 17th century, and after that, the floodgates opened to printing Shakespeare's works. Item 48 is a copy of the Fourth Folio, published in 1685. It is noted as the most attractive of the folios, while picking up the same title page as the Third Folio of 1664. The Third Folio printed seven never before published "Shakespeare" plays, only one of which is now believed to actually have been written by Shakespeare. The Fourth Folio copied that edition's title page too literally, claiming these plays "Never before Printed in Folio," which obviously is incorrect. Item 48. £90,000 (US $128,269).


Item 30 is a collection of Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851, from the originals painted for H.R.H. Prince Albert, published in 1854. Dickinson Brothers published the book of illustrations from one of the earliest and greatest of international exhibitions. It was held at London's Crystal Palace, an amazing structure of iron and glass constructed specifically for this fair. It was consumed by fire in 1936 (the floors were made of wood). Over six million people attended the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 100,000 items were displayed by 14,000 exhibitors from around the world. The show was based on four themes – machinery, manufactures, fine arts and raw materials. This two-volume set contains 55 detailed, colored drawings from the exhibition hall. £20,000 (US $28,506).


Shapero Rare Books may be reached at +44 207 493 0876 or rarebooks@shapero.com. Their website is www.shapero.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <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>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>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions