The copy of the Aldine Aristotle which made £100,000 at King Street in 1995 and CHF190,000 (£88,000) in the Bergé sale.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

This cemented Aldus' academic reputation and remained the definitive Aristotelian text until the Bekkers edition of 1831. The five parts were sold as they came out, at different prices, and the total cost of 11 ducats prompted the Bologna scholar Codrus Urceus to moan that he could have bought "ten fine Latin manuscripts" for the same price.

The copy offered here in the Bergé sale, with abundant contemporary annotations to the margins and in a 19th century vellum-backed pasteboard binding, sold for CHF190,000 (£88,000). Proyart had hoped for more on the work that had fetched £100,000 at Christie's in 1995 and was disappointed by the lack of American interest.

The 1495-98 Aristotle can certainly make more, and back in 1989, a set bound in 16th century half pigskin, complete with clasps and catches and bearing the arms of Zurich to the covers, was sold for £220,000 at Sotheby's.

Since the previous 1995 London appearance of the copy under discussion, we have also seen the return of the above-mentioned Zurich copy to sell for a much reduced £145,000 at Christie's in 1996 and two apparances of a very handsome copy in 17th or 18th century French red moroco gilt bindings. As part of the Haskell F. Norman library this set made $330,000 (then £198,000) at Christie's New York in March 1998 but was back at Sotheby's in January of 2001 to sell for $525,000 - then around £360,000!

On December 3 of this year, Sotheby's offered a set bound in late 18th century red morocco gilt with the monogram of John Rylands added to the upper cover. In a 1988 sale that the auctioneers held for the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, this Spencer-Rylands set sold at £110,000 and subsequently entered the collections of J.R. Ritman, but back in London this month, estimated at £200,000-250,000, it failed to find a buyer.