Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2019 Issue

An Amazing Find within the Pages of a 500-year-old Book

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Giorgione's drawing and inscription (University of Sydney photo).

There are two dreams we have when discovering an old book in the attic. One is that it is of great value; the other is that there is something of great value tucked away inside. The latter happened at the University of Sydney Library in Australia recently, but the value is beyond great. It could well be stupendous. Here is the surprising story.

 

Kim Wilson of the Sidney University Library was going through the pages of a 1497 edition of Dante's Divine Comedy when she came across a drawing on a blank page near the back of the book. The image is in red and more faded than you would like, but it can be seen. It appears most likely to be a drawing of a Madonna and child. You might think it was just some doodling, but obviously it was by someone with artistic talent. Still, it is unlikely to have been a big deal as the identity of the artist would be indecipherable but for one thing - there is some writing at the top of the page. It is in Italian.

 

Ms. Wilson contacted Emeritus Professor Nerida Newbegin of Italian Studies for a translation. No one could have expected what that would reveal. The translation reads:

 

"1510 Ihs Maria

 

"On the day of 17 September, Giorgione of Castelfranco, a very excellent artist died of the plague in Venice at the age of 36 and he rests in peace."

 

Giorgione is something of a mystery. He is considered one of the greats, but little is known of him or his work. He was active in the first decade of the 16th century, and at one time, many paintings were attributed to him. He was something of a default for paintings of a certain style. Those attributions are no longer believed. It is now thought that maybe six known paintings were created by this master, but other sources say only three prior to this discovery. The difference may be that some of his paintings were completed by others after he died in 1510. At that time, the plague swept through Venice and Giorgione was one of its victims.

 

While Giorgione may have little corpus available now, and consequently is not that well-known outside of knowledgeable circles, he was highly respected in his time. He was evidently a romantic and riveting personality. Giorgione was a contemporary of Titian, and there is some similarity of styles. It is believed that Titian may have finished some of his paintings after Giorgione died. Titian is believed either to have been a student of Giorgione or was a fellow student with him. It is also known that Giorgione met with Leonardo da Vinci around 1500. Da Vinci was well-established by then, a generation older though he outlived Giorgione by almost a decade. He is believed to have had a great influence on Giorgione.

 

Describing the find, Emeritus Professor Jaynie Anderson of the University of Melbourne made a stunning statement. I don't know if this is a bit of hyperbole, but she said, "Giorgione is as important an artist as Leonardo da Vinci but only a fraction of works are known to be in his hand." As important an artist as Leonardo da Vinci? This is only a sketch, not a completed work, but still, what is the Mona Lisa worth? No wonder this is a stunning find. It has just increased the known examples by one-third of an artist described by an expert to be as important as da Vinci.

 

The inscription above the image does provide a bit more personal information about the artist than was known before. The exact date of his death was not known. Also, if the note writer was correct about his age being 36, that puts his date of birth back earlier than thought before. That has been thought to be 1477 or 1478, not 1474.

 

This leaves one more question to be answered. Where did this book come from and how did it end up in Australia? The librarians do not know. All their records indicate is that it was given to the library as a donation, sometime between 1914 and 1959, probably after 1928.


Posted On: 2019-04-03 00:41
User Name: mairin111

A stunning piece, and the subject (this find) invites serious, continuing delving.
Nicely written, brimming with interesting facts.
Thank you, Mike Stillman & Rare Book Hub,

Maureen E. Mulvihill
Rare Book Hub Guest Writer, 2016 -
_______________________________________


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
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    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Tratado de Paz… entre la República Mexicana y los Estados Unidos. (“Treaty of Peace… Between the Mexican Republic and the United States”) 1848. $80,000 - $90,000 MXN / USD $4,444 - $5,000
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Fabregat, Josep Joaquín. Vista de la Plaza de México… (“View of the Square of Mexico”) México, 1797. $60,000 - $100,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $5,555
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel. Invitación al Coronel Narciso de la Canal… (“Invitation to Coronel Narciso de la Canal…”) 1810. $170,000 - $200,000 MXN / USD $9,444 - $11,111
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    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Colección de Constituciones de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (“Collection of Constitutions of the United Mexican States”) México, 1828. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Ruelas, Julio. Poemario Manuscrito Ilustrado, Dedicado a Lorencita Braniff (“Collection of Illustrated Poem Manuscripts, Dedicated to Lorencita Braniff”). 1903. $60,000 - $70,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $3,888
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Espinosa de los Monteros, Juan J. Aviso de la Junta Soberana al Público (“Notice of the Sovereign Meeting to the Public”) 1821. $60,000 - $80,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $4,444
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos... (“Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States”) México, 1824. $140,000 - $150,000 MXN / USD $7,777 - $8,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Alcaraz, Ramón. Apuntes para la Historia de la Guerra entre México y los EU (“Notes on the History of the War between Mexico and the United States”). 1848. $40,000 - $50,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $2,777
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
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  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
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    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
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    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
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    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
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    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
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    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.

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