Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2020 Issue

Important Books and Manuscripts, Including Fine Bindings and Private Press, from Phillip J. Pirages


Catalogue 75 from Phillip J. Pirages.

Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts has released their Catalogue 75. Manuscript Material, Incunabula, and Books Printed from 1501 to Present, Including Fine Bindings and Private Press. It is filled with items meant for the best private and institutional collections. Pirages does not target a particular subject or type of book, but rather, concentrates on important material from across a wide spectrum. We can note that the manuscripts are not a lot of typical handwritten documents but professional scribal material, often illuminated, some predating the invention of printing. Here are a few examples of the important items to be found in this latest selection.


We will begin with the oldest item in the catalogue. Actually, Pirages notes that it is the oldest leaf they have ever sold. It is a page taken from the Homilies of the Venerable Bede. Bede was a Catholic theologian in Jarrow, England, who wrote in the early eighth century. He died in 735. It was unusual to find many notable church scholars in England that early. He is still regularly referred to as “venerable” although he was canonized a saint. That came over a millennium later (1899) so the label “venerable” is still used though he is now St. Bede. Based on such factors as the type of parchment and style of writing, the creation of this manuscript leaf can be traced to the monastery at Fulda in Germany. It can also be dated to the middle or second quarter of the ninth century. The Homilies would have been first scribed by monks in Jarrow a little before Bede's death, but later brought to the continent where they were copied in Fulda. Like many of the really old extant manuscript leaves, this one survived because it was used in the bindings of a later book when it was thought to be of no further use. Often, these documents are now worth far more than the books in which they were used as bindings. Item 2. Priced at $48,000.


This next item is not nearly so old as the previous one, but it is still very early for printed books. It contains the Confessionale: Defecerunt Scrutanter Scrutinio of Antoninus Florentinus with Sermo de Poenitentia of Johannes Chrysostomus. The former was a 15th century Archbishop of Florence, the latter a fifth century bishop. The first is a confessional, the second a sermon. It was published circa 1470 and that early on there wasn't a lot being published beyond religious tracts. This is a second edition. The printer was the first in Cologne, Ulrich Zel. Zel had served an apprenticeship with Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer. Fust loaned Gutenberg the money to set up the first printing press and Schoeffer served as Gutenberg's assistant. When Gutenberg was unable to repay the loan, Fust sued him and won possession of Gutenberg's equipment. With the now skilled Schoeffer as his partner, they became the successors to the forced out Gutenberg. The binding was created by “the Master of the Rose,” Cologne's first binder. Item 99. $16,000.


Women have rarely received due recognition, even in present times, so it is surprising to see a book such as this coming from the 15th century. The author was Jacobus Philippus de Bergam, the title De Claris Mulieribus (concerning famous women), published in 1497. This is actually something of a continuation of a book by the same title written by Giovanni Boccaccio and published in manuscript form in the 14th century, and first printed in 1473. That was the first western collection of biographies exclusively about women. Jacobus was a historian, although his standards would not be regarded as very high for a historian today. His biographies and 172 woodcut portraits include not only historical women, but biblical and mythological ones as well. Naturally, most of these portraits are based more on period imaginations than actual images of the women, which were nonexistent. However, the final seven are of women from Italian noble families contemporary with Jacobus, so those were drawn either from life or realistic images. The book starts with the Virgin Mary, but goes back to earlier biblical figures, all the way to Eve, and mythical figures such as the snake-haired Medusa. This is why we say Jacobus was not always a discerning historian. The often missing entry for Pope Joan is supplied in facsimile. Pages for the female pope who almost assuredly never existed, but many believed was real at this time, were often destroyed as the Church did not recognize her existence. Pirages describes this as “one of the finest illustrated books of the Italian Renaissance.” Item 113. $25,000.


Here is a book by a man whose extreme puritanical views would not be much appreciated today. They weren't even appreciated in his own day. His name was Thomas Hall, and his book's title is Akosmia, the Loathsomnesse of Long Haire. With an Appendix Against Painting, Spots, Naked Breasts, &c., published in 1654. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, “Akosmia” means chaos. Hall makes biblical arguments against long hair on men, evidently unaware of the typical portraits of Jesus, and speaks of how matted long hair can become infested with vermin and bleed. He even says that some men in Poland lost their eyes when their long hair was cut. This is another example of a dubious historical claim. Hall cites the better known Puritanical hair-cutter William Prynne and his book about “love-locks,” but Pirages tells us that Hall says even he didn't condemn long hair sufficiently. After 95 pages on men, Hall adds some pleasant comments for the ladies, such as calling make-up “the badge of the harlot.” Hall was a minister, but when the Restoration in England replaced the previous Puritanical rule, his congregants threw him out. Item 131. $3,000.


Item 230 is A Note by William Morris on his Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press. Together with a Short Description of the Press by S. C. Cockerell, and an Annotated List of the Books Printed Thereat. This was the last book printed at the Kelmscott Press, in 1898, two years after Morris died. The staff was in wind down mode of already started projects during the two years after Morris died. The Kelmscott Press and William Morris were the primary movers in the fine and private press movement which continues to this day. This is one of 525 copies on paper. Morris describes his admiration for the artistry of 15th century books which he hoped to restore. He says, “they were always beautiful by force of the mere typography, even without the added ornament, with which many of them are so lavishly supplied.” This is very fine copy, hard to find now. $3,000.


That item leads us to a new book, written by Phillip Pirages and just published, Letters from the 15th Century: On the Origins of the Kelmscott Chaucer Typeface. The text provides new information about Morris and his library and about early printers and typefaces. Each copy includes five leaves, one from the Kelmscott Chaucer, and one each from the 15th century presses of Peter Schoeffer, Johann Mentelin, Gunther Zainer, and Anton Koberger, each admired by and influential on Morris. The pages were taken from defective copies, or in the case of the Kelmscott Chaucer, unbound pages. It has been printed in a limited run of 165 copies. Prices vary depending on the leaves supplied and style of binding.


Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts may be reached at 503-472-0476 or info@pirages.com. Their website is www.pirages.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Antiquarian Books<br>Including a series of views of Milan<br>September 27 to October 4</b></center>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Livius, Historia Romanae decades, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1470, contemporary Morocco. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Blaeu, Nieuw Stedeboeck van Italien (Piemont), The Hague, 1724-1725, 8 volumes, marbled calf gilt. €70,000 to €90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Baysio, Rosarium decretorum, Venice, 1481, later vellum. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> [Niccolò da Poggibonsi], Viaggio da Venetia al santo Sepulchro, Venice, 1529, later half calf. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Hieronymus, Epistole [Italian], Ferrara, 1497, blue crushed morocco with the Rocco di Torrepadula arms. €12,000 to €15,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Extensive archive of papers of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> George Catlin, <i>North American Indian Portfolio,</i> 1844. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> The Twenty-Four Books of the Holy Scriptures, Carefully Translated…after the Best Jewish Authorities, Philadelphia, 1853-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Wedding book of Eleanor Roosevelt’s bodyguard, Earl Miller, signed by the Roosevelts, 1932. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Textile titled <i>The Resignation of Pres’t Washington,</i> Scotland, circa 1800. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Gideon Welles, Pass for President Lincoln’s White House funeral, 1865. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Confirmation of arms and nobility in favor of the Diez y Mora family, Madrid, 1710. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1937. PRESENTATION COPY OF THE FIRST ENGLISH EDITION PRINTED IN ENGLAND. $50,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [SHACKLETON, Ernest]. –– BROWNING, Robert. <i>Poetical Works of…</i> London: Smith and Elder, 1906. PRESENTED TO SHACKLETON AND THE OFFICERS OF THE NIMROD BY A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York: George R. Lockwood, [1870]. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> ARISTOTLE. Opera, in Greek, parts one and two only: Organon and Natural Philosophy I. Edited by Aldus and others. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1 November 1495–February 1498. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> COOK, James, Capt. [Collected Voyages]. First and Second Voyages: London: W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1773, 1777; Third Voyage: London: H. Hughes for G. Nicol and T. Cadell, 1785. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne (“Mark Twain”). <i>The Writings of…</i> Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1899–1900. $12,000 to $16,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Poems of…</i> Edited by Frederick S. Ellis. Hammersmith: William Morris for the Kelmscott Press, 1893. $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> LONDON, Jack. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905. PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY LONDON. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CROWLEY, Aleister (1875–1947). <i>The Winged Beetle.</i> London: privately printed, 1910. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> WILDE, Oscar (“C.3.3.”). <i>The Ballad of Reading Gaol.</i> London: Leonard Smithers, January 1898. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> DRYDEN, John. <i>Fables Ancient and Modern; translated into verse from Homer, Ovid, Boccace, & Chaucer: with original poems.</i> London: John Tonson, 1700. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [MAP]. LINSCHOTEN, Jan Huygen van. <i>Delineatio Orarum Maritimarum…</i> London: John Wolfe, 1598. $3,000 to $4,000.

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