Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2020 Issue

Illustrated Books from Ursus Rare Books

Illustrated Books 1540-1993.

Ursus Rare Books has issued their Catalogue 347 of Illustrated Books 1540-1993. That's five centuries worth of illustrations that are mostly such as could be considered works of art. Most, at least of the older books, are European in origin except that Ursus also has a large selection of books that were created in Japan. The language may be more challenging to those in the West, but the beauty is universal. Here are a few selections from these illustrated books.

 

We begin with the creator of some of the most enduring illustrations ever to appear in books. William Blake was both an artist and engraver, and while his work is deeply admired today, he was not nearly so appreciated during his lifetime. His life was a constant struggle to get by. As such, he was fascinated with the biblical Job, whose life was also a struggle, though on a somewhat greater scale. Such is the life of an artist. He finally got his opportunity to do illustrations based on Job, and 21 engraved plates of his images can be found in Illustrations of the Book of Job, published in 1825, two years before Blake died. Each of his illustrations includes a quote from the Book of Job, along with a decorative border. There were 150 copies printed, this being one of 65 on French paper. While most copies are either significantly foxed or washed, this copy has only some light foxing and has not been washed. Blake only got the opportunity to create these illustrations because his friend, the artist John Linnell, recognized Blake's genius before most others and commissioned him to create this work when Blake was age 68. Item 32. Priced at $85,000.

 

Here is a book that provides artistic illustrations in both quality and quantity. It is one of the Japanese books. Its title is Orimon Ruizan (historical textiles at the Imperial museum). Published in 1892, it contains 1,040 color woodcuts on 520 leaves, housed in 10 volumes. It features woodcuts using a “superb array of colors, including gold and silver.” Ursus continues, “It would be hard to find a more beautiful collection of Japanese designs.” They also note that “this is the most comprehensive imaginable encyclopedia of Japanese textile design.” Item 45. $15,000.

 

Next we have the architectural drawings for a massive building project in Milan. The title is Projetto sul Foro Bonaparte...in Milano..., the architect Giovanni Antonio Antolini. The architect for what was called the Bonaparte Forum (in honor of Napoleon and the ancient Roman Forum) was approved by its namesake who controlled Milan at the time. The new forum would contain many buildings around a circular plaza. Courthouses, theaters, public baths, universities, and museums would be among the structures, which were designed to move the center of the city away from its current narrow streets. Commercial businesses would surround the main structures. The only shortcoming to the project was that it was never built. Despite Napoleon's approval, the project was too grandiose for practical implementation. These drawings were as far as it ever went. This edition, without text, was published in 1814, but Ursus believes the 24 plates were actually remainders from the original edition published in 1801-1804. Item 30. $35,000.

 

I am not sure whether this is a feminist book or exactly what it is. It is unusual. The title is Les Vrais Pourtraits de quelques unes des plus grandes dames de la Chrestiente, disguises en Bergeres, published in 1640. That translates to “true portraits of some of the greatest ladies of Christendom, disguised as shepherds.” The author/artist was Crispijn van de Passe, the Younger, of Amsterdam. The book comes in four parts, the first part displays royal women, including queens, the second lesser royalty, the third women from the merchant class, many known to van de Passe, the fourth artists. The women are real, but what is odd is that all are disguised. Each is dressed as a shepherd, which van de Passe explains was an ideal employed by artists at the time, but not a dress of high fashion, which would look ridiculous once fashions changed. The artist provides some clues as to who the women are, but while some of the more notable ones such as royalty are identifiable, others are unknown to scholars today. The reason for all of this is unclear. Item 10. $22,500.

 

Here is another odd book, though that is explained by it being humorous. The title is L'Empire des Légumes (the vegetable empire) featuring the artwork of 19th century French artist and engraver Amédée Varin. The writers were Eugene Nus and Antony Meray, but it is Varin's drawings that stand out. These are of humanized vegetables, containing all the failings of humans. In Varin's drawings, carrots, radishes, onions, beans, lettuce, asparagus, artichokes and other vegetables walk and talk like people. Also known as Droleries Végétales (humorous vegetables), the book includes a frontispiece plate and 24 other plates of the humorous vegetables. Item 39. $7,500.

 

Ursus Books may be reached at 212-772-8787 or pkraus@ursusbooks.com. Their website is www.ursusbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000

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