Bid to $220,000 (£173,230) in a May 18-19 sale held by Andrew Jones (25/18/12% buyer’s premium) of Los Angeles, it was a complete 2nd, or Pancoucke edition (1821-30) of this extraordinary, officially sponsored work, originally commissioned by Napoleon and worked on by a great many scholars and artists over many years.
Comprising a dozen double elephant folio plate volumes and 26 smaller text volumes, some with illustrative content, it presented close on 900 engraved plates, all of which bore blind-stamps in one outer corner.
In contemporary binding, this was a fine set of a bibliographically complex work and the saleroom claims a record for this version.
In 2011, however, when Christie’s Paris dispersed the Michael Wittock collections, a first or Imperial edition set – published in 23 volumes in the years 1809-22 – made close on €1.18m, a little over £1m at the time.
That set, mostly comprising plate volumes and in which 42 plates were hand coloured, had been a gift from Charles X of France to his minister of justice, Jean Joseph Courvoisier, who had them sumptuously calf bound and decorated with gilt and blind stamped tooling of Egyptian inspiration by J-J Tissier of Paris.
Like the set in the recent US auction, the volumes were housed in a special cabinet – in that instance one designed by Charles Morel.