• <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>English Literature, History, Science,<br>Children’s Books and Illustrations<br>1 – 8 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> JAMES OF MILAN | <i>Pricking of love,</i> illuminated manuscript in Middle English [England, fifteenth century]. £60,000 to £80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> BEARDSLEY | <i>The Toilet of Helen,</i> original ink drawing for Savoy, 1895. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DICKENS | <i>A Christmas Carol,</i> 1844, seventh edition, presentation copy inscribed by the author. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>English Literature, History, Science,<br>Children’s Books and Illustrations<br>1 – 8 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DARWIN | <i>For Private Distribution... Extracts from Letters addressed to Professor Henslow...,</i> 1835, original wrappers. £70,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DEFOE | Autograph manuscript poem, 'Resignation', 1708. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> GRAHAME | <i>The Wind in the Willows,</i> 1908, first edition, dust-jacket. £12,000 to £16,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits<br>7 – 15 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> [RELIURE BRODÉE]. <i>Horae beatissimae...</i> Anvers, 1570. Reliure brodée de la Renaissance aux armes du duc d'Anjou. €50,000 to €70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> ARTOIS, comte d', futur Charles X. 75 lettres autographes au comte de Vaudreuil entre 1792 et 1804. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> [Pascal, Blaise]. <i>Lettres de A. Dettonville ...</i> Paris, 1658-1659. Rarissime édition originale en reliure de l'époque. €30,000 to €50,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits<br>7 – 15 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Aragon, Louis. Ens. de 8 ouvrages avec envois à Jacques Lacan, dont "Blanche et l'oubli", 1967, sur grand papier. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Fermat, Pierre de. <i>Varia opera mathematica.</i> Toulouse,1679. Petit in-folio. Edition originale. De la bibliothèque de Jacques Lacan. €6,000 to €8,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Leduc, Violette. <i>La Bâtarde.</i> 1958-1963. Important manuscrit autographe, premier jet. 20 cahiers, env 2048 p. ms. €40,000 to €60,000.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> SHERBURNE, BRANTZ, and WIRGMAN. The Original Drawings of the First Modern Scientific Survey of the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay. $350,000 to $500,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> LAFON, Barthelemy. The Earliest Comprehensive Survey of Louisiana and its Adjacent Regions. $350,000 to $450,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Giacomo GASTALDI. The Most Important Renaissance Wall Map of Asia Published in the 16th Century – with all four sheets having full margins. $300,000 to $400,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> CAO, Junyi. The Most Important Map of China to Come to Market in 50 Years. One of only three known copies of the last Ming Dynasty world map. $325,000 to $375,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> ORTELIUS, Abraham. Ortelius Atlas Spanish 1588 Magnificently Rich Original Hand Color in Full. $225,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> An Exceptionally Fine and Historically Important Manuscript Map Showing the Origins of Texas in the 19th Century. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> PRICE, William and BONNER, John. Map of Boston 1769. $225,000 to $325,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> John James AUDUBON. Audubon’s Brilliant Icon, That Has Never Been Equaled for Drama. $150,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Pierre-Joseph REDOUTE. Original Watercolor, Red Lily. $175,000 to $250,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> John James AUDUBON. The Most Famous Image of a Bird in All of History. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Martin WALDSEEMULLER. The Finest Example in Existence of Martin Waldseemuller’s Map of the New World, with Spectacular Full Original Color. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> GORDON, Peter. The First State of the First View of Savannah: The Template for American Urban Planning. $100,000 to $150,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2014 Issue

Cartouche’s skull, the ultimate trick?

895dd02a-5aaa-44ef-b45a-5eacfeda3164

Cartouche's skull, or is it?

The story of the most lovable French rascal Louis-Dominique Cartouche (1693-1721) became a personal obsession after I first wrote about him on this very website two years or so ago. I had bought an early 19th century copy of his classic biography that brought back childhood memories: the movie of Philippe de Brocca (1963), and especially my gorgeous Claudia Cardinale. But reading many informative and interesting books about the first Public Enemy No. 1 in French history, I felt frustrated by their overall poor literary quality. Indeed, the lives of petty criminals was yet a vulgar topic left to second-rate writers. But that was until I eventually came across Les Amours & la Vie de Cartouche, a fake anonymous autobiography printed at an unknown date (circa 1789), supposedly at London (a printer’s trick to tell the readers his book contained some sulphurous details), by an anonymous bookseller. At last, I could smell gunpowder, hear horses running away through the pages and the laughter of Claudia Cardinale in the background. Curiously, most historians and printers have overlooked this treasure for the past 150 years. That’s what determined me to reprint it a few days ago, adding historical notes and a few rare contemporary engravings (www.la-vie-de-cartouche.fr). Doing so, I led various and thorough investigations that led me to... the authentic skull of Cartouche! This silent and mysterious remain didn’t tell me much about Cartouche’s life, but it told about the incredible story of his death.

 

Cartouche’s ultimate trick

 

Philippe Mennecier, technical supervisor of the collections of anthropology of the Museum of Natural History in Paris, led me through the corridors of his office, just across the Jardin des Plantes. He stopped in front of a metal cupboard, smiling: “Here are our special guests,” he said. Inside, some piles of cardboard boxes, like shoeboxes. “We have several famous skulls here, including Descartes’, and... this one.” He slowly took a skull from its box, and then put it on the table in front of me. Just like that. I was mesmerized at the simplicity of the instant, of the meeting. I had expected—what? Some protocol, maybe? A sort of ritual—but none of that. I felt a bit uneasy in front of the empty stare; a brother’s skull, or Man reduced to his simplest expression. On the left side, a number written in black ink, 24.860; and a name, Cartouche. “So, this is... he?” I said. “Hum, most likely,” answered Mr Mennecier. “But I find André Plaisse’s demonstration quite convincing.” The late historian André Plaisse indeed questioned the authenticity of our skull in 1995: “Nothing, as an historian, predestined me to study this skull,” he wrote. “My work was more about the Hundred Years war, and more specifically the rebellion of Godefroy d’Harcourt and his partisans.” This story takes us to another scaffold, indeed; erected in Paris in 1344 for three rebels who were beheaded on the orders of King Philippe de Valois VI. Their heads were then sent to Saint-Lô to be exposed on the walls of the city where they remained for 27 months; they were put on an iron spit with a hook on the top and a sort of iron plate at the bottom. After all this time spent in the open air, there was probably not much flesh left when the rebels were eventually rehabilitated by the whimsical wheel of fortune in 1346. Their skulls were then buried in the church of Saint-Lô and left at peace until rediscovered in 1734. That’s when they were sent to the library of Sainte Geneviève in Paris, where, according to André Plaisse, one of them was probably mistaken for Cartouche’s skull; the latter having ended up in the same place at an unknown date, and by an unknown way—if it ever did. “We know little about several items that entered the cabinet de curiosités of the library in the 17th and 18th centuries,” confesses Yannick Nexon, head of the department of storage of the library. “It’s true that the abbey of Saint-Lô was a dependency of Sainte-Geneviève and that the priories outside Paris used to send some historical curiosities to the mother-abbey—so why not the skulls of these rebels, if they were in good condition? The skull was probably attributed to Cartouche through oral history. It is mentioned for the first time in an inventory of 1850.” Could our skull be nothing but a fraud—Cartouche’s ultimate trick?

 

Cartouche’s body was still warm

 

André Plaisse thought the authentic skull of Cartouche actually belonged to one of the three rebels of the 14th century, mainly because of the rusty stains left around the top orifice and alongside the jaw. He had them analysed, and the results were convincing. The concentration of rust even proved that “some iron object was stuck into the head shortly after death, when there was still some soft organic tissue around.” The iron stick would have left the stains on the top of the skull while the iron plate those on the jaw. About the confusion between the two skulls, André Plaisse hadn’t much to say: “Why was the skull attributed to Cartouche in the late 19th century? Probably because nobody knew where it came from.” It’s true that the skull left few—and contradictory—traces in its wake. Cartouche’s body was still warm when people started to exploit it: “His corpse was left with the executioner’s jack, who received the orders to bury him,” reads Histoire de la Vie et du procès du fameux Louis-Dominique Cartouche et de ses complices. “But he didn’t follow these instructions (...) For several days, he showed it to the curious. The amount of people who avidly rushed to the scene is unbelievable. The jack asked one sol per viewer.” The jack claimed to collect the money in order to buy the bandit a coffin. But he changed his mind, and sold the body to the surgeons of Saint Côme instead. The Mercure de France of December 1721 reads: “Cartouche’s corpse was carried to Saint Côme; and its dissection became the masterpiece of Meunier Callac, son of Meunier Callac, so expert in rare diseases.” The amphitheatre of Saint Côme, inaugurated in 1693, enabled the students to attend various surgical operations. But history recalls Meunier Callac for nothing but his celebrated miraculous infusion. What did Callac do with the body? Did he send it to the common grave? It disappeared all of a sudden at the time, and I could find no trace of it until 1865, when a peculiar article was published in the news stories section of the Confédéré du Valais: “On the Boulevard Saint-Martin, in Paris, is to be seen not the skeleton but the corpse itself of the famous Cartouche, who died in 1721.” The anonymous journalist claimed to have made some researches, but was probably only quoting the owner of the corpse. Meunier Callac, he wrote, had embalmed Cartouche’s body after the dissection. “The corpse then ended up with Professor Brallouet, who eventually gave it to the Athénée Royal in 1791. In 1793, it was stolen from the Athénée. In 1848, it was showed a third time, then bought by an antique dealer from the Faculty of Medicine, who sold it for 10,000 francs to the man who currently shows it.” The news was reprinted in England, Italy and even in the New York Times (November 12, 1865). But the skull was mentioned on the inventory of Sainte Geneviève as soon as 1850—at least the one we consider today as the authentic skull of Cartouche.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Ulysses,</i> 4to, Paris: (Shakespeare & Co.) 1922, First Edn. €7,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Of the Utmost Rarity with Swift Association. Harward (Michael). <i>Philomath. A New Almanack for the Year of Our Lord,</i> 1666. €6,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Full Complement of Hand Coloured & Other Plates. Rosellini (Ippolito). <i>Monumenti dell Egitto e della Nubia,</i> Vols. I, II, & III Plate Volumes only. €5,000 to €7,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Magnificent Hand Coloured Plates. [Bivort, Debabay, & others] <i>Annales de Pomologie,</i> 8 vols., folio, Brussels, 1853-1861. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Very Fine Coloured Plates & Illustrations. Barbier (George) Vogel (Lucien) & others, <i>Gazette du Bon Ton - Arts-modes et frivolities, </i> 1914 to 1922. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> “I have seen War... I hate War," Signed Presentation Copy to William C. Bullitt, Roosevelt (Franklin D.) August 14, 1936. €3,000 to €4,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Victorian Hostess & Horticulturist. An Important Collection Relating to Lady Dorothy Nevill (1826-1913). €2,500 to €3,200.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Fine Original Portrait Photos of The O'Brien Ladies by Margaret Cameron. Two black and white Photos, each 8" x 10". €1,200 to €1,800.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> James Hume Nesbitt Illustrations: A collection of twelve pen and ink Drawings and Etchings intended for publication as book of illustrations for his thriller novels. €800 to €1,200.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Attributed to Kitagawa Utamavo (1753-1806). A pair of attractive colourful woodblock prints, of Court Ladies in decorative robes with numerous stamps and script. €800 to €1,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Contemporaneous Notes from Captain Cook's Voyage Travel: [Anon] <i>Voyage to the South Sea by Mr. Banks, Mr. Parkinson and Dr. Solender, with Capt. Cooke,</i> a 7 page m/ss document. €700 to €1,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Very Rare First U.K. Edition with Yellow Paper Band. Herbert (Frank). <i>Dune,</i> 8vo London (Victor Gollancz Ltd.) 1966. €500 to €700.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Bernardus Sylvanus, one of the earliest printed maps of the New World, woodcut, Venice, 1511. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johannes Blaeu, <i>Nova et Accuratissima Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula,</i> Amsterdam, 1662. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Emanuel Bowen & John Gibson, <i>Atlas Minimus,</i> miniature atlas, London, 1758. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Henry Andrews, <i>The Botanist's Repository for New & Rare Plants,</i> London, 1797-1815. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Night Heron or Qua Bird, Plate CCXXXVI,</i> hand-colored aquatint, 1835. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Basilius Besler, group of 30 folio engravings, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> Eichstatt, 1613. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Henri Chatelain, <i>Carte Tres Curieuse de la Mer du Sud...,</i> Amsterdam, 1719. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Arnoldus Montanus, <i>Die Unbekante Neue Welt...,</i> German text edition, Amsterdam, 1673. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Woodhouse Audubon, <i>California Gray Squirrel,</i> oil on canvas, c. 1853. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> BULLER, Walter Lawry. <i>A HISTORY OF THE BIRDS OF NEW ZEALAND.</i> London, Van Voorst, 1873. Special De-Luxe edition of this already rare work.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> GIBBS, May. <i>Gum-Nut Babies.</i> Sydney: Angus and Robertson, Ca. 1918.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> SWIFT, Jonathan. <i>TRAVELS INTO SEVERAL REMOTE NATIONS OF THE WORLD.</i> London: Printed for Benj.Motte. 1727.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> JUKES, Joseph Beete. <i>NARRATIVE OF THE SURVEYING VOYAGE OF H.M.S. FLY…</i> London: T. & W. Boone, 1847. First Edition.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> <i>SOMERVILLE, E OE. IN THE VINE COUNTRY.</i> London: W H Allen & Co Limited, 1893.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> MAWE, John. <i>The voyager’s companion, or shell collector’s pilot.</i> London : 1825. Rare.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> PARKINSON, John. <i>Theatrum Botanicum, The Theater of Plants…</i> London, Thomas Cotes, 1640.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> c. 1150 decorated MONASTIC MISSAL LEAF, Southern Germany/Austria.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> LEGGE, Captain W. Vincent. <i>A HISTORY OF THE BIRDS OF CEYLON.</i> London, The Author, 1880.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> AUNT HANNAH. <i>SOME ADVENTURES IN THE LIFE OF A COCKATOO.</i> Published in New York by R. Shugg and Co., 1872.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions