Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2009 Issue

The Zaehnsdorf Reference Library from Oak Knoll Books

Books from Zaehnsdorf's library from Oak Knoll Books.


By Michael Stillman

Oak Knoll Books has issued a new catalogue entitled The Reference Library of the Zaehnsdorf Company. The Zaehnsdorf Company was a venerable English bookbinder, in business for almost a century and a half. The firm was founded in 1842 by Joseph Zaehnsdorf, an immigrant from Budapest. Zaehnsdorf had bounced around Europe working for binders as a young man before emigrating to England in the 1830s. He worked for several years at London's most notable bindery before setting out on his own. After a slow start, business began to build, and Zaehnsdorf had secured a reputation as one of the best in his field when he died in 1886.

Zaehnsdorf's would be passed down through the family, first to his son, Joseph William, and then to his grandson. The firm remained independent until 1983 when it merged with another notable London bookbinder, Sangorski and Sutcliffe, under the name SSZ Ltd. In 1998, the firm adopted the Sangorski and Sutcliffe name. Offered in this catalogue are numerous books from Zaehnsdorf's library, including some of their bindings, business ledgers, and a well-respected book about binding by Joseph William.

Item 258 is a first edition of what has been described as "a landmark book in the history of bookbinding." It is Zaehnsdorf's copy of Joseph William Zaehnsdorf's The Art of Bookbinding, a Practical Treatise, published in 1880. The verso of the half title reads, "Fifty Copies Printed on Large Paper for Private Circulation Only." This copy is actually a bit larger than the large paper edition, though the plates are absent and the paper is of lesser quality. It appears to be a proof copy of the large paper edition. Priced at $500. Oak Knoll also has several later editions of Zaehnsdorf's classic.

For those interested in the first century-plus of Zaehnsdorfs, item 64 is Zaehnsdorfs (1842-1947), Craft Bookbinders. This is a 1986 history of the firm by Frank Broomhead (I've never seen that unusual last name before), followed by a chapter on conservation and restoration. The copy is signed by the author and contains Zaehnsdorf's bookplate. $95.

Item 257 is an unusual Zaehnsdorf-bound item. Called Testimonials (on the spine), it is a collection of letters received by the firm from 1853-1905. As might be expected, they are generally laudatory. Many come from individuals associated with or a connection to the book trade or collecting, and though there are no truly famous names here, there are such as Scottish poet George Macdonald, highly regarded by an earlier generation. $950.

Item 33 is a conspiratorial-sounding title: The Enemies of the Book. This 1888 title by William Blades, however, is not about book burning and the like, but about natural problems, including chapters on fire, water, heat, dust, ignorance and bookbinders. It carries Zaehnsdorf's bookplate, and presumably they were careful not to be one of those "enemy" bookbinders. $75.

Rare Book Monthly

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  • Forum Auctions
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    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
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    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
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    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
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    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.

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