Sunflowers and Natural Beauties
Entering the booth of Librario Bado E. Mart (Italy) was like entering an 18th century cabinet of curiosities with huge open books displaying wonderful hand-coloured plates of various plants and animals. The huge engraving of a Flos Solis maior (sunflower) taken from the work of Basilius Besler (1713) was a striking sight. “The book contains more than 300 engravings, depicting 1,000 flowers from 700 various species,” the bookseller said. “This is one of the most expensive books of the 18th century.” Money has always been part of book collecting, and to buy this particular one at the time was probably even crazier than to buy it today.
My trip drove me to various beauties such as a 16th century edition of Villon’s poems—the other Rimbaud, the seller claimed—once the property of the Duc de la Vallière ($28,000); the manuscript of the convict Henri Berryer’s L’Exil dans l’enfer ($28,000), and an original wooden printing plate. “This is the portrait of Réaumur,” the bookseller said. This renowned French physician (1683-1757) had one of the finest cabinets of curiosities of his time. “I sell it with a fine edition of his works in five volumes.” A valuable addition, indeed! I also came across one of the 110 copies of Tabubu by Rosny and Maurice Lalau (1932), an “Art Deco masterpiece illustrated with 71 works made of gold and silver.” ($11,000) There were also various objects more or less linked to books, including a peculiar tobacco-box from the 18th century. Olivier Becker, from Vanves (Paris), was more than pleased to show it off. “If you open it in the middle, it is but a regular tobacco-box. But! If you lift up this small golden part on the top, then...” I leaned forward—a woman’s derriere! At the SILROA, mermaids’ songs spring from everywhere.