Collectors with a passion for hunting have probably been salivating ever since Sotheby’s Paris announced their sale of Bibliothèque cynégétique du Verne : Vénerie, fauconnerie, chasses, or, the Hunting Library of the Counts du Verne taking place on October 5th. The material was assembled over more than 150 years by three generations of collectors: Joseph du Verne, his son Pierre du Verne, and Pierre’s daughter, Nicole du Verne-Bernis. In the realm of collectible books on hunting and hawking, this is a rare event, with Sotheby’s calling it “one of the most attractive hunting collections ever offered for sale since the sale of the Marcel Jeanson collection at Sotheby’s in Monaco in 1987.” The sale contains 271 lots of mostly books in French and spans the 15th to the 20th centuries. The evolution of hunting is well-documented, and many copies bear the markings of preceding prestigious hunting collections including Jérôme Pichon, Auguste Veinant, Baron de Lassus and Grandjean d’Alteville.
Of all the important books included in the sale, Gaston Phébus’ Des Deduiz de la Chasse des Beste Sauvaiges et des Oyseaux de Proye probably carries the most weight. Printed in Paris around 1507-1510, though composed in 1370, this treatise by Phébus was considered one of two on hunting available to French readers for nearly two centuries. This hunting book also happens to be the first book ever printed in Paris. Lot 212 is the first edition, estimated for €150,000 – 250,000, and lot 213 is the third edition, estimated for €50,000 – 70,000. A dozen copies are known of each edition.
I mentioned that Phébus’ work was one of two hunting treatises available in France for almost two centuries, and that was the case until Jacques du Fouilloux printed his La Venerie de Iaques du Fouilloux Escuyer, Seigner Dudit Lieu, Pays de Gastine, en Poitou in 1561. This is a book of equally enormous importance in the history of hunting and is considered a masterpiece of French literature on hunting with hounds. It contains 57 woodcut illustrations and is the first technical illustration on the subject of hunting. This first edition is also exceedingly rare. Rarity and a combination of both significance and illustration carries a price: lot 71 is estimated €100,000 – 150,000.
Not every item in the sale has an estimate with six digits however, and many are prints or engravings:
- Lot 34 is a beautiful, privately printed book (70 copies produced) by the Duke of Brissac which features 17 color lithographs by Paul Jouve. It is entitled simply Chasse and bears the autographs of both the Duke and the artist. It is estimated €30,000 – 50,000.
- Lot 151 is called Quatre Scènes de Chasse à Courre, which are four copper etchings by Pierre Landry depicting various hunting scenes. It is estimated €3,000 – 5,000.
- Lot 228, La Chasse à Courre, Guide de l’Invité, contains 8 inset plates in color by Karl Reille. This copy is a second edition, but was printed specifically for Count Peter du Verne and contains 13 original ink drawings as well as a watercolor by Reille.
Sotheby’s sale of Bibliothèque cynégétique du Verne : Vénerie, fauconnerie, chasses will take place over two sessions on Wednesday, October 5, beginning at 10:30 am central European time and continuing the same day at 2:30 pm. The auction will be held at Sotheby’s Paris location at 76, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008. The catalog can be viewed online here. Previews will be available on these days:
- October 1: 10 am – 6 pm
- October 2: 12 – 6 pm
- October 3: 10 am – 6 pm
- October 4: 10 am – 6 pm
Bidding is available in the standard methods: in person, absentee, online, and telephone. All methods require registration with Sotheby’s prior to the sale.