See also : British Royals Manuscript Judaica Literature Literature in English Books Incunabula 17th century books Poems and lyrics Political writing Renaissance Sciences Sciences 1600-1800 Astronomy Physics Silverware
Chronology : 1460-1479 1540-1569 1620-1629 1680-1699 1700-1709
1189 The Five Books of Moses
2015 SOLD for $ 3.6M including premium
The first sale of the Valmadonna Trust Library by Sotheby's in New York on December 22 includes three European manuscripts among the oldest that survived the persecutions. They have the usual original textual additions : the major commentaries or Masorah magna in the header and footer and the minor commentaries or Masorah parva in the intervals between the columns.
One of them is dated exactly of 15 Tammuz 4949, corresponding to July 2, 1189 of our calendar. This manuscript of 482 pages 28 x 31 cm is made of the Pentateuch, the Haftarot (books of the Prophets) and the Five Songs. Scholars locate it in England through paleographic considerations and by the presence of Anglo-Norman words in some marginal notes.
1189 was a terrible year for the English Jews who were victims of riots at the coronation of Richard I. Their manuscripts were considered as a wealth and were looted. Very few Jewish belongings escaped this event followed a century later by the expulsion of the Jews from England. This highly rare medieval English Pentateuch in beautiful condition is estimated $ 2M, lot 7.
In the manuscript at lot 6, estimated $ 1.5M, the Pentateuch and Haftarot with both types of Masorah are accompanied by the Targum which is the Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch. Undated, it may be contemporary to the English manuscript discussed above. Its writing is Ashkenazic and a Franco-German origin is assumed.
Lot 5, estimated $ 1M, is considered as the oldest manuscript from the Valmadonna Trust Library although it does not anticipate the other two by more than a few decades. This manuscript in Sephardic writing was done in Spain. It is limited to the Pentateuch and its two Masorah.
Lot 7 (English, 1189) SOLD for $ 3.6M including premium
Lots 5 and 6 unsold
1297 The Magna Carta
2007 SOLD for $ 21.3 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
In 1215 the English barons revolted against King John. Financial and military demands had not prevented the scathing failures. In a situation of civil war, the king is forced to accept the Magna Carta by which the barons take control of the taxes.
The Magna Carta undergoes several modifications, because the political circumstances change. De facto rejected by King John, the Council of Barons, which was the forerunner of a parliamentary regime, was canceled in 1216 when the child Henry III acceded to the throne. In 1225 Henry III simplified the Magna Carta to facilitate its legal application.
The idea of a Parliament is gaining ground. Edward I takes the habit of summoning his advisers to make decisions concerning taxes and their collection. The operating rules are defined from 1283. It only remained to give force of law to the Magna Carta, which the king assisted by the Parliament solemnly does on October 12, 1297. It is stipulated in 1300 that a copy will be available in each county to be read four times a year.
17 manuscript copies from the 13th century have survived. 15 of them are in British institutions and one in the Australian Parliament.
The 17th document is a copy from 1297. It was bought in 1984 by the US billionaire Ross Perot, who entrusted it for display at the National Archives in Washington DC. It was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Sotheby's on December 18, 2007. Its new owner, David M. Rubenstein, returned it to the Archives for a new long-term loan. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1477 The Canterbury Tales printed by Caxton
1998 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
He is a very important promoter of English literature, himself making numerous translations of secular texts. He understands the cultural incentive of the printing press during a visit to Cologne in 1471. He immediately transfers a printing press to Bruges. Translated from French by Caxton and printed in Flanders in 1473, the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye is the very first incunabula in the English language. A copy was sold for £ 1.08M including premium by Sotheby's on July 15, 2014.
When Caxton returned to London in 1476, his new expertise was eagerly awaited. He instals a printing press in Westminster, the first of its kind in England.
His passion for English literature is heightened by this possibility of dissemination. He is a great admirer of Chaucer, which he publishes without resorting to sponsors. Chaucer's masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, becomes in 1477 the first masterpiece of English printing. This achievement is all the more meritorious as Caxton later complained of the poor literary quality of the manuscript at his disposal.
About ten copies of this original edition have survived, plus three important fragments. The only complete copy, which had belonged to King George III, is in the British Library. The illuminated copy kept in Oxford has been completed.
On 8 July 1998 at lot 2, Christie's sold for £ 4.6M including premium the only copy in private hands, which is also one of the most complete with only 4 lacking leaves.
1547 Portrait of Katherine Parr
2023 SOLD for £ 3.44M by Sotheby's
The fifth consort Catherine Howard was beheaded in 1542. Widowed for the second time in February 1543, Katherine was part of the household of Princess Mary, the daughter of Henry and the late and divorced Catherine of Aragon.
The ailing King Henry married Katherine in July 1543. A political and intellectual powerful figure in her own right and a religious and educational patron close to Protestantism, the new Queen was instrumental of reconciling Henry with his three children who will later reign in their turn, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth.
Henry died in January 1547. Katherine withdraw from the court, made her fourth wedding and died in her first childbirth in 1548.
A portrait in three quarter length of Katherine was probably painted in 1547 while she was the queen dowager, before the secrecy of her fourth marriage was broken. The lavishly dressed queen is identified by a crown topped brooch on her chest which is well described in the inventories of the jewels of Queens Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr. The artist is not identified but an earlier portrait of the queen is by the same hand.
This oil on panel 92 x 72 cm was sold for £ 3.44M from a lower estimate of £ 600K by Sotheby's on July 5, 2023, lot 6.
#AuctionUpdate Attributed to Master John, this portrait of Queen Katherine Parr is one of only two surviving near contemporary paintings of Katherine. Almost 200 years since it was last offered at auction, the work soars to £3,436,000, 4x its high estimate. #SothebysOldMasters pic.twitter.com/EVAnPE9DpY— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 5, 2023
mid 1560s Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
2007 SOLD for £ 2.6M by Sotheby's
A full length life size portrait where the standing queen is wearing a gown in scarlet satin and white silk displays the desired elegance and luxury also increased by pearls, gems and embroidery. A side panel displays a profusion of ripe fruit in line with the young maturity of the queen while the rest of the background is painted in gold. In her hands the glove is a symbol of power and the carnation flower is the symbol of an expected betrothal.
It was painted in the mid 1560s, in the follow of the draft proclamation, for the use of Hampden House, possibly with a suitor in mind. Once convincingly attributed to Steven van der Meulen in the follow of a similar full length portrait made in 1561, it was recently re-attributed to George Gower although the earliest documented works by this artist were made in 1573.
This oil on panel transferred to canvas 196 x 140 cm was sold for £ 2.6M from a lower estimate of £ 700K by Sotheby's on November 22, 2007, lot 4. The image is shared by Wikimedia,
1623 SHAKESPEARE's First Folio
2020 SOLD for $ 10M by Christie's
This man of the stage died in 1616 without having paid attention to the literary value of his own works. Half of his plays were unpublished. The others had been issued as poor quality booklets of which we can be assume that they were not verified by the author.
John Heminges and Henry Condell, who owned overall half of the shares of the Globe Theatre, judiciously decided to reconstruct with the best possible accuracy the whole of Shakespeare's dramatic work. They knew 36 plays of which 18 had never been published. They will have to buy back the publishing rights to some of them and to retrieve the partial manuscripts that had been entrusted to the actors to perform their own role.
The print is of the top luxury, in relation to the literary magnificence of the work. What would later be called the First Folio is a superb volume of 454 leaves 32 x 21 cm, printed in 1623 by Jaggard and Blount. It is forever used as the top reference for any Shakespearean scholarship.
The production run of the First Folio is estimated at around 750 copies. About 220 survive today. 56 are complete, of which only 5 are in private hands. All but six are from the third issue when the content was frozen and the error of a redundant page has been corrected.
Shakespeare is the greatest success in English literature and editions are multiplying. Garrick puts Shakespeare still higher in fashion and Edmond Malone devotes his life to the study of his work. Malone proposes in 1778 a chronology of the plays, observes the literary greatness of the First Folio and has a new edition published in 1790.
On October 14, 2020, Christie's sold a complete copy of the First Folio for $ 10M from a lower estimate of $ 4M, lot 12. In 1809 its owner had submitted it to Malone's appreciation just before having it bound. The expert's autograph letter is joined to the volume. Malone found it to be a fine, genuine copy of the First Folio. A few small repairs will be carried out according to his recommendations. This copy has retained the cleanliness observed by Malone more than 200 years ago.
Only five complete copies of the 'First Folio' remain in private hands, and on 24 April in #NewYork, Christie’s will offer the first complete copy to come on the market in almost two decades during our #ExceptionalSale. https://t.co/orNUeX30H0 pic.twitter.com/k90SszIXD0— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 25, 2020
2001 SOLD for $ 6.2M by Christie's
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M by Sotheby's
The image of the title page is shared by Wikimedia.
#OnThisDay in 2006, Sotheby's sold Shakespeare’s First Folio in NYC for $5.2m. Having only previously been owned by two people, the First Folio is the first collected edition of plays, without which there may never have been a William Shakespeare. https://t.co/IMGeqgcaoI. pic.twitter.com/C89bgVNPHJ— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 13, 2021
1687 The Universal Philosophy revealed to the World
2016 SOLD for $ 3.7M including premium
One of his outstanding skills was to develop mathematical methods of high complexity to analyze and support his own physical theories. Even before he was 30, he compared the motion of the planets and the fall of the bodies. Essentially preoccupied with his own understanding of the mechanism of the universe, he published sparingly.
In 1684 in London, the scientists of the Royal Society challenged themselves to find the mathematical formulation of the law of motion of the planets described by Kepler. All failed. Halley visits Newton in Cambridge. He is stunned : Newton knows the solution but has lost his calculation notes. The orbital movement of a celestial body is an ellipse whose position of the other body is one of the foci.
The scientific stake is highly important and Halley manages to persuade Newton to disclose in their entirety his results concerning the law of universal gravitation. Edited and financed by Halley, Newton's Latin book entitled Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is published in 1687 with the imprimatur of the Royal Society.
The book is difficult in the opinion of the author himself and the circulation probably did not exceed 300 copies but it is of such scientific importance that Halley and Newton took care of organizing their sale through booksellers. One of them named Samuel Smith is more specifically entrusted to the supply onto the Continent and receives about 50 copies for that purpose.
On December 14 in New York, Christie's sells a copy in a luxury binding in inlaid morocco, presented in that state by Smith to an unidentified recipient. It is estimated $ 1M, lot 167.
Another association copy with a binding of a comparable luxury is known. It was offered to King James II, patron of the Royal Society. This book was sold for $ 2.5M including premium by Christie's on December 6, 2013 over a lower estimate of $ 400K.
1705-1706 The Thirst of the Ambassador
2010 SOLD 2.5 M£ including premium
Unreleased until its arrival at auction in London on July 6, this silverware had been created on an initiative by Queen Anne. Seeking to ensure the standing of her ambassadors, she allocated to them a weight of silver with which they could have made an object enabling them to dazzle in society.
The ambassador in Berlin, from the Wentworth family, exceeded his quota and had to share the expenses! In any other country than England, this enormous bucket would risk a thousand times to be melted during the three centuries of its existence. But it remained cool (!) In the family of its first owner, and is now estimated 1.5 million pounds.
Despite the outstanding and royal features of this piece, the estimate is ambitious.
POST SALE COMMENT
The market has confirmed the exceptional nature of this piece of silverware: £ 2.5 million including premium.
It is viewed towering in the middle of the showroom at Sotheby's on this page shared before the sale by Art Market Monitor.