Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2006 Issue

Illustrated Books from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books

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Illustrated books from Bernard J. Shapero.


By Michael Stillman

Just received from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books is a catalogue entitled Illustrated Books 2006. This is the most difficult type of catalogue there is to describe. These are books most notable for their illustrations, and we all know that it takes a thousand words to equal just one image. It would take impossibly long to write a review to do this collection justice. So, to be concise, if you collect any sort of illustrated works, primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries, you will want to see this catalogue. It covers many topics, but the common thread is the beauty of the illustrations.

Shapero is kind enough to break the collection into categories for convenience. Here they are: Art and Architecture, British Topography, Caricature, Costume and Fashion, Foreign Topography and Portraits, Natural History, Naval and Military, and Sport. As a British bookseller, the concentration of works are from England, and next Europe, though there are exceptions. Shapero specializes in the most collectible of books, and this group is no exception. Here are a few samples.

For a large collection of images of London in the early 19th century, there is The Microcosm of London; or, London in Miniature, published by Rudolph Ackermann. This three-volume folio first edition was published between 1808 and 1810. It includes 104 colored plates from around London. Ackermann's intention was to show London as it was, including churches, fairs, markets, theaters, courts, hospitals, even prisons. He shows the worlds of both the rich and poor. This was Ackermann's first major book, as he would go on to publish many more finely illustrated works. Item 20. Priced at £5,000 (British pounds, or US equivalent of approximately $9,345).

James Baillie Fraser was introducing a new world to most Londoners with his 1820 book Views of the Himala Mountains. Shapero describes this as "the finest illustrated work on the Himalayas." Fraser studied painting after traveling to India to serve as a merchant in Calcutta. In 1815-16, he visited the Himalayas where his brother William was serving as an agent for the military. William was given the task of visiting several local chiefs, so James decided to go along. His travels resulted in this illustrated folio volume. Item 82. £42,500 (US $79,476).

Item 99 is another beautifully illustrated Himalayan book: A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains by John Gould. Gould was to Europe what Audubon was to America. He would go on to illustrate numerous European birds, but this Himalayan book was his first work, published in 1832. At the time, Gould was Curator of Birds at the Zoological Society's museum. He realized this was the first collection of any size to reach Europe from the Himalayas and concluded there would be a market for a large folio illustrated work on this collection. £11,000 (US $20,575).

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