Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2015 Issue

Dec. 1: Must-see Science & Medicine Books from Christie's London

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Signature items of Christie's Science & Medicine Books from the Royal Institution

Technically not a November sale, Christie’s London’s December 1st sale of Science & Medicine Books from the Royal Institution of Great Britain is close enough that we’re including it in our November issue. I’ve covered other sales this month that carry a wide variety of material and will appeal to a broad audience. This sale is different—its offering focused, the grouping tight, and the material premium. Chances are, if science and medicine books are a sweet spot for you, this sale is already in your sights. If by chance it’s not, here’s an advance notice that it should be.

Most sales have a singular gem; one lot that blows everything else out of the water. This auction has several, beginning with what has been called the “most famous anatomical work ever published, … and the milestone in all medical history” in the medical bibliographical reference Heirs of Hippocrates. The item in question is lot 284, Andreas Vesalius’ 1543 publication of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Benefitting from what was at the time, cutting-edge (no pun intended) human dissection, this work with over 200 woodcut illustrations is a seminal work that fundamentally altered the course of anatomical study. Important items usually carry a premium, and important items wrought with images more so. Lot 284 is estimated for £140,000-220,000 ($214,760-337,480).

Standing on equal ground in terms of significance with Vesalius’ work, lot 245 is a first edition of famed astronomer Johannes Kepler’s most important work—Astronomia nova, seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellae Martis, ex observationibus G.V. Tychonis Brahe, printed in Heidelberg in 1609. Astronomia nova contains the first enunciation of what he is most famous for: the first two laws of planetary motion, being the law of elliptical orbits, and the law of equal area. With only ‘a few copies’ (Kepler’s words) printed, this is a rare and important item. It is estimated £90,000-120,000 ($138,060-184,080).

The next item has been in Institution hands for over 200 years. It’s another high profile scientific item, being William Gilbert’s De magnete, magneticisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure; Physiologia nova, plurimis & argumentis, & experimentis demonstrate. Perhaps the first great scientific book printed in England (published in London in 1600), Gilbert was a key figure in the development of electrical science and coined the terms “electricity,” “electric force,” and “electric attraction.” His theories on magnetism were used by Galileo when developing support of Copernican heliocentric cosmology, and his work was cited by Digby, Boyle, Kepler, and Huygens. This was an important scientist, and you can obtain one of his books for an estimated £40,000-60,000 ($61,360-92,040) as lot 233.

You’d be forgiven if this next lot flew under your radar. It is not of medical or scientific origin, and therefore finds itself placed somewhat at odds with its peers in a sale of other medical and scientific material. Lot 234 is a first edition of the Federalist Papers written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed Upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787 contains all 85 of the essays that were written in defense of the newly drafted Constitution, as well as the complete text of the Constitution. Equally at home in a library of American history or political science, lot 234 is estimated £40,000-60,000 ($61,360-92,040).

With a concentrated focus, and relatively low number of lots (90), the catalog of Science & Medicine Books from the Royal Institution is must read material for serious collectors of the genres. All lots may be browsed on Christie’s website. The sale takes place on Tuesday, December 1st, at 2:30 London time at Christie's King Street location. If you plan on bidding on the sale, please make sure to register with Christie's beforehand.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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