Chronology : 1530-1539 1540-1569 1620-1629 1640-1649 1680-1699
1520-1539 The Princeps Edition of the Talmud
2015 SOLD for $ 9.3M including premium
The invention of printing was not immediately applied to Hebrew types. In Italy, some Christian illuminators were able to continue their business during the last decades of the fifteenth century by adapting their expertise to the copy of Hebrew books.
The first books printed in Hebrew also appeared in Italy. A Mishneh Torah printed in Bologna in 1482 was sold for € 2.8 million including premium by Christie's on April 30, 2014. The texts are cleverly arranged in blocks for an easy comparison within the page between the basic text and its commentaries. There is nothing similar in the Christian culture as far as I know.
Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer in Venice, obtained in 1515 the permission to print in Hebrew. His princeps editions of the Talmud are a major project carried out in three phases : the Babylonian Talmud from 1520 to 1523, the Talmud of Jerusalem in 1522 and 1523 and additional tractates from 1525 to 1539 that went to complete his Babylonian Talmud.
The result is an achievement. The composition continues the tradition of confrontational blocks with such skill that they will serve for centuries as a prototype for further printed editions of the Talmud. The rabbinical sources are carefully selected and considered as indisputable. The book is printed on a beautiful heavy paper.
Westminster Abbey once owned the finest surviving copy of the Babylonian Talmud of Bomberg, complete of its 3472 leaves of great freshness, in nine volumes 39 x 27 cm in a period binding. When he was assembling his Valmadonna Trust Library, the collector Jack Lunzer managed to acquire this set by providing in exchange a valuable old charter of the abbey.
The Bomberg Talmud of the Valmadonna Trust Library is estimated $ 5M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 22, lot 12.
The Valmadonna collection was exhibited at Sotheby's in February 2009. The video below, which is an introduction to the 11000 pieces displayed in this exhibition, demonstrates convincingly why the Bomberg Talmud is the most important jewel in this stunning library.
1540 Visit to an Old Canon
2016 SOLD for £ 1.8M including premium
Georg Joachim Rheticus was fond of astronomy, perhaps as a result of the appearance of the comet of 1531. He enrolled at the University of Wittenberg led by Melanchthon, the theoretician of Lutheranism.
As early as 1536, Rheticus was appointed professor of mathematics. Barely released from astrology, astronomy was at that time a branch of mathematics. The learned calculations made by Regiomontanus in the previous century had fruitfully revived the speculation about the true movements of the planets.
Two years later, Melanchthon allows Rheticus to suspend his teaching for a tour of Europe where he will visit the humanists. He hears of an old canon who spent his lifetime improving his astronomical calculations at such a point to solve the old issue of the motion of Earth, discussed since antiquity.
Rheticus so becomes the assistant to Copernicus in Frauenburg (Frombork). For nearly thirty years, the canon had refined the text of his demonstration of the heliocentric system, sometimes sending manuscripts to the very few scholars able to understand it. He does not think to edit because of an obvious difficulty to print his figures.
Rheticus supports Copernicus with enthusiasm. The younger scientist prepares a comprehensible summary with the agreement of the master. Printed in Gdansk in 1540, that 'De libris revolutionum ... narratio prima' is the first report ever published on heliocentrism. The theory is clearly and fully attributed to Copernicus without indicating the name of his efficient collaborator.
This first edition is extremely rare. A copy is estimated £ 1.2M for sale by Christie's in London on July 13, lot 87.
1543 That Copernicus book revolutionized the science
2008 SOLD 2.2 M$ including premium
Of relatively small size (20 x 27 cm, 202 pages), this book that forever changed the design we had of the universe is decorated with woodcuts and tables of calculations.
A copy of the original edition is now for sale at Christie's, lot 60 of the sale of New York on June 17. It is nicely printed, and remained extremely clean. In its flexible binding of same period, it was part of a prestigious library during the seventeenth century.
Its estimate? 900 K $.
One of my previous articles made me review the fate in two April auctions of books by other big names in science, including De humani corporis of Vesalus, also of 1543. This very important book did not find a buyer in Paris on April 23 for 140 K €, at Pierre Bergé et Associés.
New York is not Paris, but I am afraid that Christie's get some difficulties to sell this book.
POST SALE COMMENT
After revolutionizing science, this book has just revolutionized the auction world: $ 2.2 million fees included. It is a very important result for a an exceptional specimen of one of the most significant books in the history of our civilization.
1613 The Garden of Eichstätt
2016 SOLD for £ 1.93M including premium
The prince-bishop of Eichstätt is passionate about flowers. His garden has eight sections or terraces where plants are grouped according to their origin. He entrusts the maintenance of the garden and the drawings of the plants to a botanist-apothecary based in Nuremberg, Basilius Besler.
Besler prepares 366 plates with an average of three plants per page. They are classified by season and the reader can compare the phases of a plant including bulb, flower and fruit. The Hortus Eystettensis is issued in 300 copies in 1613, in a very large format 54 x 42 cm. The deluxe version is only printed on one side to avoid the shadow of the back, and hand colored. It may be the most expensive book of its time.
A few copies began circulating in Rome in the circle of the Accademia dei Lincei. This academy is one of the earliest scientific societies in the modern sense of that wording. Its goal is to understand nature from an objective observation. In 1611, the Accademia welcomes into its ranks Galileo and also Faber, the director of the papal botanical garden.
It was known that one of the last sets of uncolored plates of the Hortus Eystettensis was purchased for the use of Faber in 1617. We did not know more. It is probably this one that has just surfaced.
On July 13 in London, Christie's sells that deluxe copy, lot 173 estimated £ 800K. It is complete of Besler's 366 plates, without the additional botanical text. Before it got its binding, this copy was supplemented with fifteen drawings and one print of a rare plant that was the pride of the garden of Cardinal Farnese. This 1619 dated plate is dedicated to Faber. The whole book was colored by a single hand.
Let us comment the considerable interest of the Roman Catholic aristocracy for flowers. The preparation of the Hortus Eystettensis is indeed contemporary to the artistic study of flowers executed throughout the summer of 1606 by Jan Brueghel from the incitement of the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's :
1623 Malone on Shakespeare
2020 SOLD for $ 10M including premium
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.
The production run of the First Folio is estimated at around 750 copies, of which less than one third survive today. 56 copies complete of their 454 leaves are known, of which only 5 are in private hands. One of them was sold for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's on October 8, 2001.
On October 14 in New York, Christie's sells another complete copy, lot 12 estimated $ 4M.
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
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2001 SOLD for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
John Heminges and Henry Condell, who own overall half of the shares of the Globe Theatre, judiciously decide to reconstruct with the best possible accuracy the whole of Shakespeare's dramatic work. They know 36 plays of which 18 had never been published. They will have to buy back the publishing rights to some plays and to find the partial manuscripts that had been entrusted to the actors to perform their own role.
The print is luxurious, 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.
On October 8, 2001, Christie's sold a copy of the First Folio for $ 6.2M including premium, lot 100. It is complete and is considered in the catalog as one of the two finest copies in private hands.
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M including premium by Sotheby's
1623 The Quadricentennial of Shakespeare's Death
2016 SOLD for £ 1.87M including premium
The First Folio, published in 1623, is of utmost importance in the history of literature since it is the first edition for 18 of the 36 collected plays. It is a beautiful edition 30 x 20 cm for which the texts have been prepared with great care. A complete copy in splendid condition was sold for $ 6.2 million including premium by Christie's on 8 October 2001 over a lower estimate of $ 2M.
The example offered in the next sale was not yet known to scholars. It is resurfacing from the descendance of a prominent bibliophile who was also a scientist of the Enlightenment. Untouched for two centuries, the book has kept a remarkably fresh condition but the nine preamble leaves are missing and several repairs are announced in the catalog. It is estimated £ 800K, lot 101.
The Second Folio, published for the first time in 1632, is very close to the First Folio with respect to the Shakespearean corpus and the bibliophile had perhaps not desired to own it. The copy for sale atlot 102, printed circa 1641, comes from another source. It is estimated £ 180K.
The other two books were in the same collection as lot 101. The Third Folio was published in 1664. This copy in an exceptionally fresh preservation is estimated £ 300K, lot 103. This edition is very rare. At lot 104 the Fourth Folio, dated 1685, is estimated £ 15K.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
First Folio : £ 1.87M
Second Folio : £ 195K
Third Folio : £ 360K
Fourth Folio : £ 47K
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's to introduce the First Folio of the next sale:
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2010 SOLD 1.5 M£ including premium
In 1623, seven years later, his closest collaborators had restored and released the closest version of his texts, by memory and using scattered manuscripts. This remarkable and prestigious edition is known as the First Folio. It is forever used as the top reference for any Shakespearean scholarship.
A story gives an idea of the passion that animated the work of these collecters. The printing of the First Folio was suspended over a hundred times to make corrections to the text, so that one cannot find two identical books.
On December 7 in London, Sotheby's auctions a First Folio in very good condition, lot 13. It has the rare feature of being complete as regards to the texts of all the 36 collected plays.
The estimate, £ 1M, seems low. The same auction house sold £ 2.8 million including premium another complete copy on July 13, 2006. It had been estimated £ 2.5 million, correctly. The binding of the mid-seventeenth century was a little earlier, but I doubt that it explains such a price difference. Wait for the result!
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, £ 1.5 million including premium, is in the upper part of the estimate range.
1640 Psalms for a New World
2013 SOLD 14.2 M$ including premium
The singing of the psalms is a strong element of their liturgy, linking together the first parishioners of that region still in wilderness. Their scholars do not want to use the available British translations. Their new version in English verse takes the excuse of a need to be closer to the original Hebrew text. It was actually a remarkable collective work, and the first sign of their independence from the Church of England.
They now have to publish this text. In London, Josse Glover supports the project and in turn leaves to America in 1638. He did not reach it, but he was accompanied by Stephen Day (or Daye), a locksmith who will be the first printer in New England.
Currently known by the nickname Bay Psalm Book, The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre is printed by Day in 1640 in Cambridge and sold by the earliest bookseller of New England, Hezekiah Usher.
The original edition consisted of 1700 copies. For a century, the book was highly successful and often reprinted. Because of its liturgical use, most copies were damaged and destroyed.
The arrival at auction of a copy in good condition of the 1640 edition is an event of the utmost importance for American bibliophiles and patriots. In 1947, one of them went to be more expensive than the Old Testament of the Gutenberg Bible.
Another one is estimated $ 15M to 30M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 26. Here is the link to the home page of the sale. The seller is the Old South Church in Boston which keeps another copy in a similar condition.
POST SALE COMMENT
The Bay Psalm Book was sold for $ 14.2M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
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.