Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2005 Issue

Two Esteemed Portraits From Martayan Lan

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Sir Isaac Newton (top) and Dr. William Harvey from Martayan Lan.


By Michael Stillman

This is a most unusual catalogue review for us. Usually, we describe catalogues full of books, and if not books, they offer manuscripts, periodicals, autographs or maps. This review is of a printing received from Martayan Lan, one of the premier map sellers in America. However, this is not a map catalogue. It is, rather, a brief pamphlet, and it contains but two items. That's all, and neither of them are maps, books, or similar printed or manuscript material. No, they are portraits. Two portraits, and nothing else.

Still, we think they are worthy of attention. These portraits are of two great scientists, one perhaps the greatest of all, the other, an important figure in the development of medical science. Each is also a famed author, and their works can command substantial to astronomical prices. The first is Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest of scientists, noted for his studies of gravity, motion, optics, mathematics, and probably just about everything else. The second is Dr. William Harvey, the British physician who discovered the workings of the human circulatory system.

If the quantity of items in this publication is small, the total price of them is not - $330,000. Or, to put it another way, $165,000 each. However, these are no ordinary portraits, any more than they are of ordinary subjects. Each is a contemporary painting, commissioned during their subjects' lives. They are as close as we will ever come to meeting the great men themselves. Naturally, these portraits are not for everyone, as their prices attest. However, for those in a position to afford a collection of the books these men published, a contemporary portrait may be just the finishing touch. These portraits will add a touch of humanity to these superhuman men.

The Newton portrait was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Kneller was the premier portrait painter of his day, having painted British royalty and just about everyone else of great importance. It pictures Newton at the age of 47, two years after the publication of his famed Principia Mathematica. This is evidently Kneller's third rendition of what is known as the "Portsmouth" portrait of Newton, originally painted in 1689. This rendition was probably painted around 1698.

The Harvey portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely, the top British portraitist prior to the arrival of Kneller from Holland. This painting depicts Harvey around the age of 70, about 1650. It was likely commissioned by his family, and remained with his descendents until recently. A gold-lettered inscription, probably from the first part of the 18th century, has been written across the top: "The Famous Dr. Willm Harvey Who discovered The Circulation of The Blood."

You may reach Martayan Lan at www.matayanlan.com or 212-308-0018.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Jean de Mandeville, <i>Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land,</i> Strassburg, 1488. Sold for $106,250.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. Sold for $65,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Louise Bourgeois, <i>He Disappeared Into Complete Silence,</i> portfolio with complete text & 9 engravings, 1947. Sold for $413,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Erich Maria Remarque, <i>All Quiet on the Western Front,</i> first American edition, Boston, 1929. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sir William Russell Flint, gouache & watercolor illustration for Homer's <i>Odyssey,</i> 1924. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters, signed to his family, 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>Lady Windermere's Fan,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, London, 1893. Sold for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Emil Cardinaux, <i>St. Moritz,</i> 1918. Sold for $17,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> R.J. Waters, 3 panoramas of the San Francisco earthquake & fire, 1906. Sold for $21,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Album with 200 cartes-de-visite, including images by Felice Beato, John Thompson & F.W. Sutton, Japan & China, 1863-69. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. Sold for $40,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s New York<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts Online<br>Ending December 17</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, Now - Dec 17:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies…</i> The Second Impression. 1632. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, Now - Dec 17:</b> GEORGE CURZON, 1ST MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON. “Curzon Tiger Hunt.” [India: circa 1901]. 120 albumen photographs. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, Now - Dec 17:</b> (CASSADY, NEAL). Kerouac, Jack. <i>On the Road.</i> New York: Viking Press, 1957. Inscribed. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, Now - Dec 17:</b> VEGA, JOSEPH PENSO DE LA. <i>Confusion de Confusiones. Dialogos curiosos entre un Philosopho agudo, un Mercader discrete...</i> Amsterdam, 1688. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, Now - Dec 17:</b> RACKHAM, ARTHUR — [WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE]. "The Moon Like to a Silver Bow New-Bent in Heaven," original illustration for <i>A Midsummer Night's Dream.</i> $12,000 to $18,000
  • <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
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    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SENDAK, MAURICE. <i>Where the Wild Things Are.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED with drawing to Hilary Knight in the month following publication. $10,000 to 15,000
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    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
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