The ex-De Belder copy of Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin’s 'Plantarum rariorum…' sold for £75,000 at Sotheby’s.

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The ex-De Belder copy of Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin’s Plantarum rariorum… shown right also got close to the low estimate at £75,000 in Sotheby’s (25/20/13.9% buyer’s premium) November 12 auction, but important works by Edwards, Knorr, Levaillant, Redouté and Weinmann all failed to sell.

The Jacquin work, billed as the finest and most beautiful of his botanical iconographies, presents within its four volumes of 1797- 1804 some 500 engraved and hand-coloured plates of the plants cultivated at the Schönbrunn Botanical Gardens in Vienna.

Most of the 200 sets produced were reserved for presentation and few have made their way to auction.

This one had been offered at auction on three previous occasions – first in 1957 and then 30 years on at Sotheby’s, as part of the great Robert de Belder collection.

On that occasion it made £80,000 and 10 years later it was sold for $130,000 (then £79,750) at Christie’s New York.

Labour of love

Among the bird books, one of the 60 sets of William Lewin’s Birds of Great Britain of 1789-94, a famous labour of love in which the 325 illustrations of birds and their eggs featured in each copy were original watercolour and gouache drawings, sold at £26,000.

A bid of £30,000 secured a copy of Schedel & van Wulverhorst’s Traité de Fauconnerie of 1844-53. The coloured litho plates after Joseph Wolf in the latter are life-size and reckoned by far the best ever produced in a book on falconry.

Only one copy has made just a little more at auction – in the same rooms back in 1999.

At £4000, a copy of JG Keulemans’ Natural History of Cage Birds of 1871 equalled a record set in June of this year by Dominic Winter. Only four parts of a proposed 20 were ever issued, containing a total of 24 hand-coloured litho plates.