• <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> AN EARLY DUTCH POCKET GLOBE ATTRIBUTED TO WILLEM BLAEU, AFTER C.1618. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes (1596-1673). £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Theatrum Statuum Regiae Celsitudinis Sabaudiae Ducis, Pedemontii principis, ... pars prima, exhibens Pedemontium ...</i> Amsterdam, 1682. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> DUDLEY, Sir Robert, self-styled Duke of Northumberland and Earl of Warwick. <i>Arcano del Mare.</i> Florence, 1661. £500,000 to £700,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> The Mainz Psalter: <i>Psalterium Benedictinum cum canticis et hymnis,</i> for Bursfeld use. [Mainz:] Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 29 August 1459. £5,000 to £10,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Currier & Ives, <i>The Mississippi in Time of Peace,</i> hand-colored lithograph, 1865. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Hartmann Schedel, <i>Liber Cronicarum...,</i> Nuremberg, 1493. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Claudius Ptolemaeus, <i>Geographicae Enarrationis Libri Octo,</i> Lyons, 1535. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Thomas Jefferys, <i>The American Atlas,</i> London, 1776-77. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Speed, <i>A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World,</i> 20 miniature maps, London, 1665. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> <i>Biblia Das ist: Die Gantze Heilige Schrifft Durch D. Martin Luther Verteutscht,</i> illustrated cartographic Bible, Basel, 1665. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Early Hawaiian-language school geography, Lahainaluna Seminary, 1840. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Cornelis de Jode, <i>Africae Vera Forma, et Situs,</i> Antwerp, 1593. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Maria Vincenzo Coronelli, <i>America Settentrionale Colle Nuove Scoperte Sin All Anno,</i> Venice, 1688. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Christoph Volkamer, <i>Nürnbergische Hesperides,</i> Nuremberg, 1708-1714. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Bayer, <i>Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata...,</i> 51 celestial charts, c. 1603. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Manuscript map of Commodore Perry’s Black Ship squadron at Edo Bay, with manuscript sketchbook, ink & watercolor, Japan, c. 1853. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies.</i> The second Impression. London, 1632. £120,000 to £180,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Das Römische Carneval.</i> Berlin and Gotha, 1789. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [SHAKESPEARE, William]. Manuscript part for a contemporary analogue to <i>Henry IV,</i> part I, n.p. [perhaps Oxford or London], n.d. [c.1580s – before c.1620]. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832). <i>Faust. Ein Fragment... Ächte Ausgabe.</i> Leipzig: Georg Joachim Göschen, 1790. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. As it is now Acted at his Highness the Duke of York's Theatre.</i> London, 1683. £60,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.</i> Leipzig: Weygand, 1774. £15,000 to £20,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2018 Issue

The Incredible Manuscripts of Mont Saint-Michel

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Writing and musical notation form the Mont Saint-Michel manuscript.

Two weeks ago, the French state opposed the sale of four stunning manuscripts—40 pages bound in one volume—from the XIIth century. Their provenance itself is incredible: they are from the prestigious collection of the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel! The auctioneer Patrice Biget from Orne Enchères, in Alençon, took all the precautions he could before offering them for sale—yet the state claims them as its property.

 

Mont Saint-Michel is an extraordinary place in Normandie, France. It is a small and gorgeous community built on a rocky peninsula. Every year, dozens of thousands of tourists visit the place, including the historical Abbey. The cult of Saint Michel was introduced in 708 on the mount, the official website of the Abbey reads, and it became one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in the Middle Age. The Benedictines built the abbey during the Xth century. King Saint Louis himself visited the place, which was turned into a state prison during the French Révolution. In fact, in 1789, a revolutionary decree declared all goods belonging to the Church state properties, including the books and manuscripts of the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel.

 

Among them was, apparently, these four incredible manuscripts bound in one volume that were supposed to be sold on May 5. Patrice Biget, the auctioneer, protests. These manuscripts indeed once belonged to the Abbey, as they are listed on the 1639 inventory of Don Anselme Le Michel. In 1739, Dom Bernard de Montfaucon reproduces the same inventory, listing them as well. But the revolutionary commissioner in charge of the collection issued another listing in 1795, giving no reference whatsoever. “There is no mark dating from the revolutionary period on the manuscripts,” Mr Biget declares to the website Actu.fr. “There’s no more trace of any “caviardage” (the coats of arms torn by the revolutionaries)... so we believe it was never in the possession of the commissioner, who only referred to the 1739 inventory, probably without checking whether the manuscripts were actually still in the collection.” He also explains to Ouest France newspaper that “all manuscripts listed in 1795 bear an official stamp—ours don’t!” Furthermore, the 1801 listing of the same collection—missing 30 volumes out of the 175 original ones—doesn’t mention the manuscripts, nor does the 1820 one. At one point, they obviously dropped from the collection—but when, and how ? These are the questions. Unfortunately, the private owners of the manuscripts refused to reveal their identities, which makes things harder.

 

The manuscripts themselves are gorgeous. One is dedicated to geography—it is a two-page description of the provinces conquered by the Romans. The next one deals with music—it offers some musical scores as well as the ancient codification of music, before notes! The two last ones are poems, a satire of Jean de Hanville against the powerful, and an incredible allegory of Nature wishing to create a perfect creature—a new man—but meeting resistance from Prudence, Reason and Concord. They were declared complete and authentic—and in a very good state of conservation— by a group of experts led by Pascal Guillebaud. Handwritten on vellum during the XIIth and the XIIIth centuries, they are “worthy to enter the greatest collections in the world.” Although the appraisal was of 50,000 euros, no one expected them to be sold for less than several hundred thousand. The volume has no binding but features gorgeous drawings, drop caps and schemes.

 

Mr Biget wants to appeal the decision of the state, notified to him through a simple registered letter emanating from the Ministry of Culture. Since the manuscript’s trajectory remains dubious, it doesn’t, he says, clearly belongs to the state. If it left the collection before the revolutionary government seized it in 1790, then it is an ordinary object of collection—and, as such, can be sold.

 

This case is extraordinary. As reminded by Mr Biget, “no other manuscript from Mont Saint-Michel was offered for sale over the past 150 years.” Yet, the decision of the government raises a few questions: are such documents “ordinary objects of collection” anyway? What belongs to the state and what does not? And eventually, is this requisitioning a way to make up the financial deficiency of the state in safeguarding the national heritage?

 

T. Ehrengardt

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> CLEMENS, SAMUEL L. <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.</i> Hartford: The American Publishing Company, 1876. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> BATEMAN, JAMES. <i>The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.</i> London: J. Ridgway & Sons for the author, [1837]-1843. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> WHITMAN, WALT. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome,] 1855. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> LEE, HARPER. Three “Seckatary Hawkins”-related books inscribed and signed by Harper Lee. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> POE, EDGAR ALLAN. <i>The Raven.</i> New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. $120,000 to $180,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Churchill (Winston) & Others. 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, 27 April 1944. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> First English edition, 1922. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Belzoni (Giovanni Battista). <i>Plates Illustrated of the Researches and Operations...in Egypt and Nubia,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1821-1822. £14,375 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Astor (John Jacob). A collection of rare letters, 9 January 1812- 4 September 1837. £26,000 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 1997. £27,500 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Royal Family. Photograph of Queen Elizabeth, George VI, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, signed, 1946. £3,640 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Collodi (Carlo). <i>Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1883. £8,401 inc Buyers Premium.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> ALBUM AMICORUM OF SCHELOMITH FLAUM. Autograph album containing drawings, autograph quotations and signatures from over 47 contributors, India, Europe, America, Israel and elsewhere, 1923–50. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> FLEMING, Ian (1908–1964). <i>Live and Let Die.</i> London: Jonathan Cape, 1954. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> HISTORY OF CINEMA. Animal Farm (1954), an animation archive from the Halas and Batchelor studios, [c.1954]. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> LE HAY, Jacques – [Charles de FERRIOL]. <i>Recueil de Cent Estampes representant differentes Nations du Levant...</i> Paris, 1714. [With:] <i>Explication des cents Estampes.</i> Paris, 1715. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> THE LAST JUDGEMENT, historiated initial 'A' on a leaf from an Antiphonal on vellum illuminated by Nikolaus Bertschi [Augsburg, first quarter 16th century]. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> VALTURIUS, Robertus (1413–1484). <i>De re militari.</i> [Verona:] Johannes Nicolai de Verona, 1472. £170,000 to £250,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> London, 1673. FIRST SEPARATE AND FIRST QUARTO EDITION. THE CHARLTON HESTON COPY. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>In Our Time.</i> Paris, 1924. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> VERNE, JULES. <i>A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.</i> New York & London, 1872. FIRST EDITION, RARE AMERICAN ISSUE, with Scribner & Welford cancel title. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> PLATO. <i>Timaeus</i> [AND] <i>Critias</i> [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. A LANDMARK OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. $80,000 to $120,000.

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