Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2016 Issue

From Champlain to Boissel de Monville, A travel books sale in Paris.

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M. Courvoisier.

Samuel Champlain was in Paris the other day, and since he had come with his iconic map of New France, many people came to see him. In fact, the showroom at Drouot was overcrowded with various travellers from the past centuries, and with as many booksellers. Rare Book Hub attended the meeting and collected the figures. Welcome on board of the Binoche et Giquello’s sale of November 16, 2016!

 

Travel books sales are not that many nowadays, especially those made up of a same book collection. “This was a family-owned collection,” confirms Odile Caule from the auction house Binoche et Giquello. “It comes from the castle of Menneval, Eure. Except one: Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale (Paris, 1632) by Champlain, as stated in the catalogue.” The expectations were not that high despite a very attractive list of books. First, because travel books have greatly suffered from the “old book crisis”—“I wouldn’t say so,” retorts the optimistic Rodolphe Chamonal, who’s been selling travel books for the past 30 years. “The market is sort of stable, now. The problem with this interesting sale is the condition of the books. Many of them need to be restored, and it costs money.” The expert for the sale, Dominique Courvoisier, made it clear from the start: “These books haven’t been properly stored and taken care of. Moisture made their pages crispy, and, at one point, the bindings have been waxed with Baranne, a cheap wax for shoes! The effect on gildings was terrible, and the hinges are quite fragile.

 

Castle business

 

Yet, castle collections hold a special place in the hearts of collectors, and this one featured a lot of classics—and a few treasures. “We have a handful of them bound in full morocco, like Acuna’s Relation de la rivière des Amazones (Paris, 1682) or Knox’ Relation du voyage de l’île de Ceylan (Paris, 1789). Fortunately, they were stored in another place, and have suffered less,” confesses M. Courvoisier. Travel books in such bindings are very rare—“they were bound for one of the “grands curieux (great curious)”, a group of bibliophilists from the early 18th century, who ordered gorgeous and unusual bindings.” Rodolphe Chamonal states: “These ones will probably go way over the appraisal, and will be bought by some fortunate collectors, who will probably never see another copy of the like in their lives.” Among the other stars of the sale were two copies of Champlain’s historical voyages in North America. The first one (Paris, 1613), relates the second expedition of the French explorer, but it came without the famous map—it was estimated between 20 and 25,000 euros (before the buyer costs of 27%), and it went for 58,540 euros (buyer costs included). The second one (Paris, 1632) regroups all the expeditions of Champlain. It is bound in full vellum, and contains the iconic “general map” of New France (Canada). “In a time when it was necessary for a European country which claimed the ownership of a land to prove that it had explored it, this map drawn by Champlain himself enabled the French to claim the region of Acadia and the valley of the Saint-Laurent River,” reads the catalogue. The huge map, at the crossroad of knowledge and ignorance, is a moving testimony of the time—and a graphic beauty. The appraisal of 100,000 euros was a little bit high, according to M. Chamonal, who reminded us that three copies of Champlain’s book were recently sold in New York—and that book lovers who can afford such a book are not that many. It was nonetheless sold for 124,460 euros. The Acuna, though missing the map of the Amazon River, was sold for 16,510 euros (appraisal 3,000 euros), and the Knox for 15,850 euros.

 

Condition comes second?

 

All booksellers from Paris attended the sale—even the people from Binoche et Giquello seemed surprised. The condition of the books worried M. Courvoisier—“curiously, it did not discourage the buyers,” he said after the sale. Indeed, a manuscript of Le Roman de la rose from the 14th century, though missing a full set of pages, was sold for 63,500 euros, while “one of the nicest books ever published about the Ottoman empire” (catalogue), Nicolay’s Les Quatre premiers livres des navigations... (Lyon, 1568), went for 57,150 euros (appraisal 40 to 50,000 euros); the hand-coloured engravings were gorgeous, indeed, but one of them was missing. On the contrary, the Wytfliet’s Histoire universelle des Indes Occidentales (Douai, 1607) featured all the maps called for, but the frontispiece of the second part was missing—it went for 18,412 euros. “We’re quite happy about this sale,” confesses M. Courvoisier. “We generated 620,000 euros where we didn’t expect more than 430,000.” As a matter of fact, even the off catalogue books, sold separately at the end of the sale, made very good prices. “This I can hardly explain,” says M. Courvoisier. I mean... Most of them were in a very poor condition or incomplete... Yet, they were bought by professional booksellers.” Travel books might have been given up for dead a little bit too fast.

 

The few unsold books (see below) were returned to the family. Among them was a modest book, which indeed went unnoticed—except by M. Courvoisier. It is always interesting to ask an expert to point out their favourite book in a sale. After all these years, and all these books, they often choose the most peculiar ones. “Take this one,” he says, handing me a copy of Boissel de Monville’s Voyage pittoresque (...) sur une partie du Rhône (Paris, An III-1795). This French traveller did not go to the ends of the Earth to discover some unknown region, he sailed the Rhône Riversaid to be partly non navigable at the time.” And he joined 17 engravings to his work. “Look at them,” whispers M. Courvoisier. “They are so unusual, so... bizarre. He drew them himself, and his style is unique for the period. And take a look at these sceneries,” he goes on while leafing through the modest book, “you’d bet you’re in the middle of the Wild West... but no, this is the Rhône River!” An untold story, as nobody bought it despite the low starting price of 200 euros.

 

This sale was interesting because it proved that travel books are still attractive to many, and that “exceptional copies” are not the only ones to reach good prices.

 

The prices quoted in this article are buyer costs included. We link to the catalogue (PDF) and the results of the sale—forwarded by the auction house. “The numbers which are not listed correspond to the books that did not sell,” underlines Binoche et Giquello.

 

Thibault Ehrengardt

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $125,000 to $175,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $145,000 to $175,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Brown Pelican, Plate 421.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $75,000 to $100,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> DE BRY, Johann Theodore, attributed to. Pair of Watercolor studies of Tulips. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> FUERTES, Louis Agassiz. <i>Alaskan Brown Bear.</i> Watercolor and gouache on board. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> HILL, Thomas. <i>Big Trees.</i> Oil on canvas. c. 1903. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> GOULD, John. <i>A Monograph of the Macropodidae or Family of Kangaroos.</i> London: by the author, August 1st 1841-May 1st 1842. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> GOULD, John. <i>A Monograph of the Odontophorinae, or Partridges of America.</i> London: Richard and John E. Taylor for the Author, [1844]-1850. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> JANSSONIUS, Joannes. <i>Atlantis majoris quinta pars, orbem maritimum seu omnium marium…</i> Amsterdam: Joannes Janssonius, 1652. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> DONCKER, Hendrik. <i>De Zee-Atlas ofte Water-Waereld, vertoonende alle de Zee-Kusten van het bekende deel des Aerd-Bodems.</i> Amsterdam: Henrick Doncker, [1658-1665]. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> BURR, David. <i>Map of the City and County of New York with the Adjacent Country.</i> Engraved map with original hand color. Ithaca, NY: Stone & Clark, 1839. $9,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> CURRIER, Nathaniel and IVES, James Merritt. <i>The City of New York.</i> Lithograph with original hand color. New York: Currier & Ives, 1884. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Joseph F. Kernan, <i>College Football,</i> oil on canvas, <i>The Saturday Evening Post</i> cover, 1932. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Joseph C. Leyendecker, <i>Golfer Lighting a Cigarette,</i> oil on canvas, c.1920. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Howard Chandler Christy, <i>In the Field,</i> charcoal & watercolor, published in <i>Scribner’s,</i> 1902. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> N.C. Wyeth, <i>Standish Reading,</i> pen & ink, for <i>The Courtship of Miles Standish,</i> 1920. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Johnanna Stewart Mapes, <i>A Fairy Book,</i> conté crayon, for <i>St. Nicholas Magazine,</i> 1907. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Arnold Lobel, pen & ink, for <i>The Frog & Toad Coloring Book,</i> 1981. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Antonio Lopez, <i>Today’s Fashions,</i> study for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1981. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Charles Schulz, <i>“I’ll have to go back to the house…I forgot my rubbers…”</i> pen & ink, original 4-panel <i>Peanuts comic,</i> 1960. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Constantin Alajalov, <i>Family Tree,</i> watercolor and gouache, cover for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1938. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
    <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
    <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
  • <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br>Mrs S. C. Belnos.</b> <i>The Sundhya or the Daily Prayers of the Brahmins,</i> 1st edition, 1851. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br>Sir Harry Darell.</b> <i>China, India, Cape of Good Hope and Vicinity,</i> 1st edition, 1852. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br><i>Scots Magazine,</i></b> 61 volumes, 1739-1800. With important maps of North America. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Ian Fleming.</b> <i>Casino Royale,</i> 1st edition, 1953. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Virginia Woolf.</b> <i>Really and Truly,</i> 1915. Autograph confessions book. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Evelyn Waugh.</b> <i>Vile Bodies,</i> 1st edition, 1930. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>J. R. R. Tolkien.</b> Autograph letter signed on Old English, with corrected typescript. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Lewis Carroll.</b> <i>The Hunting of the Snark,</i> 1st edition, 1876. Presentation copy. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Essex House Press.</b> <i>Poems of William Shakespeare,</i> 1899. One of 450 copies. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Lafcadio Hearn.</b> <i>A Japanese Miscellany,</i> 1st edition, 1901. Presentation copy. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Jules Verne.</b> <i>Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas,</i> 1st UK edition, 1873. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Charles Dickens.</b> <i>The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit,</i> 1st edition, 1844. Original cloth binding. £800 to £1,200.

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