Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2008 Issue

An Extraordinary Catalogue from Phillip J. Pirages

Pirages55

A spectacular new catalogue from Phillip J. Pirages.


By Michael Stillman

While small catalogues are occasionally special, one thing we have found in years of reviewing them is that those over half an inch thick are usually spectacular. This month we have one of those magnificent thick catalogues, simply Catalogue 55 from Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts. This is a compilation of 642 highly collectible items, filled with pages and pages of pictures of what is offered. The presentation is as brilliant as the works themselves. Descriptions are extraordinarily detailed, both concerning the content and context of the works, and the condition of the individual copies.

The type of material varies widely, but Pirages has broken it down into a few groupings. There are complete (or nearly so) illuminated manuscripts, illuminated leaves, manuscript leaves, printed leaves and leaf books, books printed before 1800, and books printed in the 19th and 20th centuries. With 642 titles from which to choose, we can mention only a few, but here are some samples of what you will find. For more details, or to obtain a copy of this fine catalogue, you should contact the bookseller.

We will start at the top. Item 1 is a manuscript bible from southern France, complete except for one leaf, created around the year 1240. Pirages notes that while the script is in French style, the decoration is Italianate. The bible was evidently the work of two scribes, who did not always coordinate their work perfectly. At least one made a few mistakes, most glaringly, leaving out the "r" in In Principio at the beginning of Genesis. This order needed a better proofreader. The manuscript contains numerous annotations which provide insight into 13th century theological issues. However, the annotations have been scraped from several pages, which leads to the question, why? Pirages theorizes it may have had to do with the "Cathar heresy." This was a popular movement in southern France at the time. Catharism believed in a dualistic world, with the material one being inherently evil. This led to numerous serious theological disputes with ecclesiastical authority. While the Church first attempted gentle persuasion, by the 13th century, it had resorted to crusades, brutal suppression, and the killing of thousands of followers. Catharism was on the run at the time of this manuscript, but still present. Whether this explains the expunging of annotations is not clear, but evidently some of the annotations displeased later readers. Other annotations indicate the manuscript was held by the Capuchin convent in Montpellier in the 17th century, and eventually in the collection of the presiding judge at the Nuremburg trials in the 20th. Priced at $69,000.

Item 9 is an illuminated manuscript leaf from the Book of Esther. The text begins with an image for its initial letter which shows Mordecai, Queen Esther, and King Ahasuerus on three floors. According to the Book of Esther, the King's evil prime minister, Haman, intended to hang Esther's adoptive father Mordecai for failing to bow down to him. For good measure, Haman also planned to kill all of the Jews in Persia, this being Mordecai's tribe. He did not understand Queen Esther was also one of the Jews (nor was the King aware of this). Ahaseurus was set to go along with the plot, as displayed in this image. On the bottom floor is Mordecai, noose around his neck, on the top floor Ahaseurus, holding the rope and ready to pull. In between is Esther, maintaining sufficient slack in the rope to prevent Mordecai from hanging. By the end of the book, Esther informs the King of her and Mordecai's ethnicity, along with reminding him of how Mordecai had once saved his life, and Ahaseurus instead uses the gallows to hang the evil Haman. $6,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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 Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <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. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750

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