The Grolier-style binding of a 1527 edition of Boccaccio’s Il Decamerone sold by Dominic Winter at £21,000.

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Boasting a superb contemporary Italian binding, a copy of Boccaccio’s Il Decamerone was a highlight of a recent Gloucestershire auction.

Sold for £21,000 by Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) on September 11, it was an example of the 1527, Giunta edition – one on which several Florentine humanists had collaborated and the edition that came to be regarded as definitive for two centuries and more.

The dark brown goatskin binding, gilt decorated in the ‘Grolieresque’ manner, exhibits a style developed by a local, Bolognese craftsman known as the ‘Pflug & Ebeleben Binder’, said the saleroom, while acknowledging that a case has also been made for a so far unidentified Sienese binder.

The front cover of this copy of one of the key works of the Italian Renaissance also bore the name of an early owner.

Apologies to More


Hans Holbein’s woodcut title-page border for the 1520 edition of More’s Epigrammata… sold in South Cerney for £7500.

Sold at £7500 was a copy of the first separate and definitive edition of Thomas More’s Epigrammata… Printed in Basel in 1520 by Johann Froben and containing 11 new poems, it followed two earlier editions of 1518 that had contained errors for which Froben had made his apologies to More.

In an 18th century calf binding that incorporated the decorative panels of its original, early-16th century binding, it bore the ownership inscription of Thomas Butts.

The son of Sir William Butts, a physician to Henry VIII, Thomas was in his later years Richard Hakluyt’s primary source for his account of what happened on Richard Hore’s 1536 voyage to Newfoundland, one in which some of those aboard allegedly resorted to cannibalism to survive.

One of the day’s more surprising results was a £9000 bid – against an estimate of £300-500 – on a 1644 first of Nathanael Homes’ Gospel Musick. Or, The Singing of Davids Psalms…

It may be significant, as pointed out in the catalogue entry, that this 1644, London first reprints most of the preface to the famous Bay Psalm Book, published just a few years earlier in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The title-page features a reference to the “Judgement of our worthy brethren of New-England touching singing of Psalms”.

Greek New Testament

The extensive Leonard Channing collection of early Bibles and theological works contained a great many early English examples but one of the more successful lots, at £3400, was a copy of the third, 1550 edition of the Greek New Testament printed in Paris by Robert Estienne.

In an early-18th century binding, it bore the bookplate of John Hay, 2nd Marquess of Teesdale (1645-1713) and sometime Lord Chancellor of Scotland.

Sold at £900 was a 7pp English Civil War period pamphlet of 1641, The Shrove-Tuesday Banquet, sent to the ‘Bishops in the Tower’. The main courses, defined on the title page, include “A Norfolk Dumplin, and a Suffolke Caveshead to Bishop Wren” and “An olde cudgell-beaten cocke to the B. of Gloucester”.

Early printed books were much a defining feature of this sale, but near the day’s end an excellent example of the 300 paper copies of the 1892 Kelmscott edition of The History of Reynard the Foxe sold at £3800.