Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2008 Issue

European Books About Books from Frits Knuf Antiquarian Books

Knuf2008

Old and Rare Books from Frits Knuf.


By Michael Stillman

Recently arrived is Old and Rare Books 2008 from Frits Knuf Antiquarian Books of Paris. Knuf is a specialist in the "books about books" field, with a focus on European and English works. This latest presentation includes catalogues of many book collections, in libraries, private collections, or offered for sale at auction or by booksellers. There are books on the history of books, type, libraries, banned books, and more, including a few that don't fit the mold quite so neatly, such as a classic instruction manual on swimming. This is a great catalogue for those who collect in the book arts, especially with a European orientation. Here are a few examples of what is offered.

Where better to start than with the giant of all book catalogues, A Catalogue of Books, issued by London bookseller Henry G. Bohn in 1841. Commonly known as the "Guinea Catalogue," Knuf describes it as "the biggest catalogue ever issued by a bookseller." While we cannot attest to this, I have certainly never seen anything else that comes close to the monumental 23,208 books listed for sale in this catalogue. They are listed alphabetically under 27 headings, each book fully described. Priced at €750 (Euros, or approximate US equivalent of $1,077).

Item 21 represents a major breakthrough in understanding the language, and with that the history, of ancient Egypt. The work is Precis du Systeme Hieroglyphique des Anciens Egyptiens by Jean Francois Champollion. Champollion was a master of languages, including Coptic, an old Egyptian tongue still understood, unlike ancient Egyptian. Using his knowledge, he was able to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs from the Rosetta Stone, which was written in Egyptian, Coptic and Greek. Once he mastered the complex language, where glyphs could either represent concepts or sounds, he could translate the meaning of other ancient writings, indecipherable at the time. This first edition of his book was published in 1824. €6,000 (US $8,622).

Sometimes national pride can get in the way of accuracy. Item 34 is one such example, a children's book by Petrus Dusseau, published in Amsterdam in 1839. The title is De Boekdrukkunst en Derzelver Uitvinder Laurens Jansz. Koster. It informs children that it was Koster, of Haarlem, who invented printing, not Gutenberg. Not many believe that any more, but it was a hard claim for the Dutch to surrender. Supposedly, Gutenberg's partner had earlier worked with Koster and stole his typesetting equipment, but no evidence has ever been found to establish this claim. In fact, it was not made until over a century after Gutenberg began rolling his Bibles off the press. €850 (US $1,222).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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