Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2005 Issue

Two Esteemed Portraits From Martayan Lan

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Sir Isaac Newton (top) and Dr. William Harvey from Martayan Lan.


By Michael Stillman

This is a most unusual catalogue review for us. Usually, we describe catalogues full of books, and if not books, they offer manuscripts, periodicals, autographs or maps. This review is of a printing received from Martayan Lan, one of the premier map sellers in America. However, this is not a map catalogue. It is, rather, a brief pamphlet, and it contains but two items. That's all, and neither of them are maps, books, or similar printed or manuscript material. No, they are portraits. Two portraits, and nothing else.

Still, we think they are worthy of attention. These portraits are of two great scientists, one perhaps the greatest of all, the other, an important figure in the development of medical science. Each is also a famed author, and their works can command substantial to astronomical prices. The first is Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest of scientists, noted for his studies of gravity, motion, optics, mathematics, and probably just about everything else. The second is Dr. William Harvey, the British physician who discovered the workings of the human circulatory system.

If the quantity of items in this publication is small, the total price of them is not - $330,000. Or, to put it another way, $165,000 each. However, these are no ordinary portraits, any more than they are of ordinary subjects. Each is a contemporary painting, commissioned during their subjects' lives. They are as close as we will ever come to meeting the great men themselves. Naturally, these portraits are not for everyone, as their prices attest. However, for those in a position to afford a collection of the books these men published, a contemporary portrait may be just the finishing touch. These portraits will add a touch of humanity to these superhuman men.

The Newton portrait was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Kneller was the premier portrait painter of his day, having painted British royalty and just about everyone else of great importance. It pictures Newton at the age of 47, two years after the publication of his famed Principia Mathematica. This is evidently Kneller's third rendition of what is known as the "Portsmouth" portrait of Newton, originally painted in 1689. This rendition was probably painted around 1698.

The Harvey portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely, the top British portraitist prior to the arrival of Kneller from Holland. This painting depicts Harvey around the age of 70, about 1650. It was likely commissioned by his family, and remained with his descendents until recently. A gold-lettered inscription, probably from the first part of the 18th century, has been written across the top: "The Famous Dr. Willm Harvey Who discovered The Circulation of The Blood."

You may reach Martayan Lan at www.matayanlan.com or 212-308-0018.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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].
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    <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>

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