Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2019 Issue

Sixty Medieval Manuscripts from Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books

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Celebrating the past.

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books has created a spectacular catalogue entitled Celebrating the Past. Sixty Medieval Manuscripts. These are works of art, labors of love, and very old. The Medieval period is generally thought of as running from the fifth through the fifteenth century. A few come a few years later, the early 16th, but these are manuscripts created five or more centuries ago. They range from the tenth century to 1521. Twenty-five of them predate Gutenberg.

 

The Medieval period, or Middle Ages, is sometimes referred to as the "Dark Ages." With the fall of the Roman Empire, learning fell into a dark period, scholarship drying up. In this catalogue, we see there was light even in the darkest times. Naturally, theology is a major theme. Writing and scholarship mainly took place in the institutions of the church. Nevertheless, from these manuscripts we find a variety of learning and artistic expressions. Subjects found within these manuscripts include religion, devotions, legends, literature, poetry, law, art, music, theater, history, heraldry, exploration, science, medicine, magic, and politics. Günther notes that the "manuscripts and their illuminations connect us to mankind and to human history, providing a glimpse of the worlds and eras in which they were created."

 

Still, it is usually not the knowledge within these manuscripts that make them so valuable and highly desirable to collectors. It is, after all, quite dated, and not all that many people can read Latin, the primary language used among the educated in Europe at the time. What is stunning is the beauty, the calligraphy of the writer or scribe, the artwork and coloring of the skilled hands that created these manuscripts. Not only were they not mass productions of printing presses, they were not the scribblings of people with interesting things to say but no artistic skills for enhanced expression. These are mostly works of art as well as text, and this and their great age and rarity is what combine to make antiquarian, illustrated manuscripts so highly valuable today. Two of the top five most expensive items at auction in the books and paper field last year were 15th century illuminated manuscripts. That is how much these ancient illustrated works by obscure artists, often in some isolated monastery, are treasured today. This catalogue is filled with such works.

 

The catalogue is arranged in chronological order, item 1 being the manuscript dated to the 10th century. It is one of the great works of the Middle Ages, from a scholar some consider the last of the early church fathers, though he may be a bit late to be early. Isidore of Seville lived during the sixth and seventh centuries. He was the Archishop of Seville in what is today Spain. His great work is the one that was copied on this manuscript, the Etymologiae. It was written over a period of years, roughly 600-625. It contains 20 books, filled with all sorts of knowledge available at the time. It is something of an encyclopedia, compiled from hundreds of scholarly works dating back to Greek and Roman times. While technically an etymology, a study of the origin of words, it covers a myriad of other subjects, both religious and secular. Among these are mathematics, geography, canon law, religion and heresies, medicine, animals, the human body, agriculture, weights and measures, and much more. It was the major textbook of this period, and provides us with text from works that are now lost.

 

This copy of the Etymologiae was written in multiple scribal hands. It contains the scribe's colophon, translated, "Who does not know [how] to write, thinks that this is not a worthy job. In fact, three fingers write, [but] all body parts work. As good is the best harbor for him who sails, so good is also the latest verse for him who writes." There are also various notations through the text, both contemporary and from the following couple of centuries. It contains various charts, a "T-O Map" ( a very primitive world map divided into three sections - Asia, Europe, and Africa) and one of Anatolia (Asia Minor).

 

Item 6 is a manuscript of Decretum Gregory IX (Decretals of Pope Gregory IX) with Constitutiones novissimae of Gregory X and other legal texts. The papacy of Gregory IX ran from 1227-1241. Gregory IX was noted for attempting to achieve greater order in the church. Along with the Decretals, laws issued by the Pope, he is noted for the Papal Inquisition (not to be confused with later Spanish and Roman Inquisitions). While inquisitions don't sound good, this one may have been kinder to those accused of heresy than the alternative of the day. Back then, civil governments could enforce heresy laws, and did so without fair trials, on the whim of local authorities. Gregory sought to provide ground rules for such trials and afford those accused the opportunity to repent and avoid the brutal punishments often inflicted on those found guilty. In his Decretals, the writing of which he assigned to Raymond of Penyafort, Gregory IX had Raymond compile the various canon laws into one text where they could all be found and readily applied. The Decretals were compiled during the 1230s.

 

This manuscript was created around 1281. It features beautiful artwork, three historiated initials and five miniatures. The finely colored miniatures tell stories, such as the Pope speaking with his counselors. The details in the artwork suggest it is the work of the famous illuminator Maitre Honoré of Amiens.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <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.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <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.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <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 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <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 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <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 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <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 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800

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