“A well travelled book with an extensive provenance” was how Sotheby’s (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) described a copy of the Commentarii of Julius Caesar sold for £19,000 on July 3.
Issued only two years later than the Sweynheym & Pannartz editio princeps, this Venetian edition of 1471 was printed by Nicolas Jenson, the French engraver and type designer whose Roman typefaces have remained so influential over the centuries. In a fine 18th century Harleian style binding of red morocco gilt by Christopher Chapman, this copy was first noted in an 1806 Leiden auction of the library of the philologist Matthias Rover.
Several other collectors and libraries have since left their mark in the book, and in the 1930s it was offered (unsuccessfully, it seems) among books from Tsarkoe Selo, the former residence of the Russian imperial family near St Petersburg. Its last sale outing was in 2000 when, as part of the enormous William Foyle library, it made £11,000.
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
Sold at a low estimate $20,000 (£15,385) as part of a Sotheby’s New York (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) sale of June 18-28 was a 1542, first English translation (by David Chapham) of the Latin text of the German polymath, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s Treatise of the nobilitie and excellencye of woman kynde.
The cataloguer, describing this work (first published in 1529) as “an early articulation of some of the core tenets of modern feminism”, was unable to find any previous auction appearance of this English version. This copy has since reappeared in a US dealer’s catalogue, valued at a very much higher sum.
Among the works sold by Sotheby’s in London for the Mary Roxburghe Trust (see last week’s issue), the most successful was a copy of Spenser’s Faerie Queene read by Charles I while he awaited execution. That lot, sold at £85,000, was reported and illustrated in ATG No 2355.
‘Shakespeare’ in Yorkshire
From the same source came an an example of Shakespearean apocrypha, a 1619 second edition of A Yorkshire Tragedie…
This early Jacobean play is based on the well-known scandal of the day regarding Walter Calverley of Calverley Hall, Yorkshire, who was executed for murdering two of his children and stabbing his wife. It is included in the third and fourth issues of Shakespeare’s plays but now thought by many scholars to have been written by Thomas Middleton.
In 1800 this copy had sold at 9/- as part of the library of the Shakespeare scholar George Steevens, but this time out the price was £15,000.
A copy of Adagia sive proverbia Graecrorum, a collection of classical Greek mottos compiled by Andreas Schott and printed at the Plantin presses in Antwerp in 1612, had been bought in 1853 for £4, but this time the price was £13,000. It had once been in the library of playwright Ben Jonson.