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Dubbed ‘London’s festival of old and rare books’, Rare Books London’s events run from mid-May to mid-June. Below we list the talks, tours and walks that form part of its roster. The fairs and auctions it promotes are part of the separate calendars on the following pages.

For the third year running, Antiques Trade Gazette is the official media partner of the festival.


London Map Fair

A clutch of exhibitors at this year’s London Map Fair on June 9-10 will display items relating to the voyages of Captain James Cook in recognition of the 250th anniversary of the explorer’s First Voyage of Discovery in 1768.

At over 7ft (2.13m), one of the most notable items on offer will be this first state of Cook’s seminal map of the St Lawrence River in North America.

It was Cook’s extensive and accurate work on this chart that secured him a posting to survey the coasts of Newfoundland, and from there to the First Voyage. The engraved chart, comprising 12 sheets published in London in 1760, is priced at £28,500 from Daniel Crouch Rare Books.

Going to the fair with London-based Altea Gallery is an illustration plate of a Maori’s intricately tattooed face from Cook’s First Voyage account published in 1773 by John Hawkesworth (c.1715-73).

Although tattooing was already known, it was Cook’s voyage that introduced the Samoan word ‘Tatau’ to England, with the English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks describing the procedure in his journals. This illustration is priced at £450.


James Bruce’s travels

James Bruce’s (1730-94) Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, In the years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773, was a multi-volume account detailing his time in Africa.


A plate from a first edition copy James Bruce’s (1730-94) ‘Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile...’ offered at Dominic Winter of South Cerney.

Published some years later in 1790, it focuses on his journeys in the Horn of Africa, with eye-witness account of Ethiopian history and culture, and descriptions of the neighbouring kingdom of Sennar and the Ottoman province of Habesh.

Dismissed by contemporary travellers as lacking credence, it has since been regarded as a valuable addition to the geographical knowledge of the day.

Dominic Winter of South Cerney will offer this first edition copy on May 16 estimated at £1500-2000.


Charles Busby's designs

Among the English architects producing design books in the early 19th century was Charles Busby (1786-1834).

In c.1808 he published a book titled Designs for Modern Embellishments suitable to Parlours, Dining & Drawing Rooms, Folding Doors, Chimney Pieces, Varandas, Frizes.

An example of this work, with hand-coloured engraved aquatint pictorial title and 24 plates, is estimated at £400- 800 in Sworders’ Homes and Interiors sale in Stansted Mountfitchet on May 15.

Busby created buildings in and around Brighton and is responsible for the Commercial Rooms in Bristol.


Zoology and Ornithology

John James Audubon’s (1785-1851) The Birds of America (1827-38) has long been regarded as the ‘holy grail’ of book purchases.

Christie’s New York has secured a full-size first edition copy and will offer it in a special sale in New York on June 14.

Billed by the auction house as “the world’s most expensive book”, the Portland bound copy with 435 lushly hand-coloured engravings is considered the highest achievement in ornithological art and is estimated at $8m-12m.


More than 2400 zoological volumes from a private Dutch library will be dispersed on May 30 at Bonhams in New Bond Street.

The collection was assembled during the 1950s to complement the work of Wassenaar Zoo, which has since closed. Zoological works on cats, monkeys, fish, chameleons, elephants, and other animals will feature but it is a group of ornithological books that will draw most interest.

Highlights include a near-complete run of John Gould’s (1804-81) folios, from his first major work A Century of Birds… from the Himalaya Mountains, for which his wife Elizabeth supplied the drawings, to the Birds of Asia and Birds of New Guinea completed after his death.

The pinnacle of the group, estimated at £100,000-150,000, is Gould’s seven-volume Birds of Australia (1840-69), the result of his own tour of the continent during which he named 300 new species of birds.


A scarce second volume of the ornithological book Les Pigeons will star in a sale of books, maps and photographs at Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull on June 20.

Published in Paris in 1838-43, the book was illustrated by Antoinette Pauline Jacqueline Knip, a gifted French bird painter, with text by Coenraad Jacob Temminck, a leading naturalist of the period.

Both he and Knip claimed author credit for both the first and second edition of Les Pigeons, a controversy still debated among scholars today. Estimate £10,000-15,000.