A spread from the ex-Heber copy of Bonaccioli’s Enneas mulieribus of 1502-03, sold for £24,000 at Christie’s.

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A dozen copies of this rare work are to be found in European institutions, but that sold for £24,000 at Christie’s on December 1 – a fine, wide marginned copy bound in 18th century red morocco gilt – would seem to be the only example recorded at auction in almost 200 years.

Early annotations include one of 1554 that records the birth of triplets, but its real bibliographical track record begins in 1721, the date on the bookplate of Antoine Pâris, Comte de Sampigny.

Seventy years later, it was offered at auction in London as the property of Antoine Pâris d’Illins and sold for £2.16s to a Dr Seguin Henry Jackson.

Following the latter’s sale of 1817 it found its way into the library of one of the more famous and voracious of all English bibliophiles, Richard Heber, and in an 1835 sale of just one small portion of his enormous library it made £52.

Heber’s memorable axiom that “no gentleman can be without three copies of a book; one for show, one for use, one for borrowers” is evidenced by the sheer scale of his library.

Reckoned to have amounted to some 200,000-300,000 volumes, it filled two London houses, one in Oxford and others in France, Belgium and other European countries.

The library was eventually dispersed in 16 sales – mostly in London but with two auctions held in Paris and one in Ghent. But while the books sold in London are thought to have cost Heber in excess of £100,000, the overall sales total was a very disappointing £56,774.