Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2005 Issue

500 Years of Books from Helen Kahn Rare Books


Five Hundred Years of Books from Helen Kahn

By Michael Stillman

Helen R. Kahn Rare Books
is offering a new catalogue of "Five Hundred Years of Books." Actually, that's a bit of an understatement since some go back more than five centuries, but we prefer understatement to hyperbole any day. Naturally, you can expect to find a variety of themes when you have books published in six different centuries all together. That you will find in this latest catalogue, including at least a few items that will undoubtedly be of interest to you. These are some samples.

Here's an example of one of those books that is more than five hundred years old. It is Aurelii Augustini de Ciuitate Dei, written by St. Augustine. Old as it is, it is not contemporary with St. Augustine, who died a millennium before the press was invented. Still, it is almost as old as printed material gets, having been published within a quarter century of Gutenberg's Bible. Augustine wrote "The City of God" from 413-427. It begins with descriptions of the tragedies that have befallen Rome and works its way to a description of two cities, one of earth, one of God. Both are on earth, and neither is a literal city, but rather communities of people, the City of God being of those people who will merit salvation. This edition was published by Mathias Moravus in Naples in 1477. Moravus did most of his printing in Naples where he operated from 1475 until 1491 and is considered one of the best printers of the fifteenth century. Item 6. $14,000.

Fast forward a millennium and a half from Augustine's time and you find Darwin. Item 29 is a first edition, first issue of his The Descent of Man...from 1871. This edition marked Darwin's first printed use of the word "evolution." The concept caused great controversy in its time, and in some places, still does today. $6,250.

So what would St. Augustine and Charles Darwin have said to each other had they met? Perhaps Darwin might have noted how well Augustine looked for someone 1,500 years old, but other than that, who knows? Not even George Lyttelton in his Dialogues of the Dead attempts to answer that question. However, he does present some theoretical conversations between other equally unlikely suspects. Fernando Cortez speaks with William Penn, Mercury speaks to a "North-American Savage" (you can guess who the "savages" were in this Englishman's view), Alexander the Great converses with Charles XII of Sweden, and Plutarch speaks (negotiates?) with a "modern bookseller." Author Lyttelton was a learned man and former Member of Parliament, but Kahn cautions, "he was well-liked and wrote fairly prolifically but not very creatively." However, he was quite popular in his time, three editions being published in its first year of 1760 and several in later years. This one is a second edition. Item 64. $400.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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