Published in three volumes in 1910-13, a work that came to be regarded as the greatest single contribution to logic since Aristotle’s times made a record £90,000 in a summer sale that spent three weeks online.
Part of a Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) auction of July 9-30, it was a scarce complete set of Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica.
Setting out to show how mathematics could be derived solely from logical concepts and methods, it is a work that has been described as having had an influence, direct and indirect, on disciplines such as mathematical logic, set theory, linguistic analysis and analytical philosophy.
Another record-breaker, at £55,000, was a fine 1755 first of Richard Cantillon’s Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en général, one billed as the best copy of the earliest treatise on modern economics ever seen at auction.
This is a work said to contain an almost complete anticipation of the Malthusian theory of population and a theory of relative wages that was used by Adam Smith.
It also presents Cantillon’s theories on prices and interest, currency circulation and the role of precious metals in the international economy.
Stated on the imprint to be a translation from the English, printed in London by Fletcher Gyles, but probably printed in Paris or Holland, this copy was handsomely and armorially bound in mottled calf gilt for its first owner, the Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt.
Voyage to the East Indies
Sold at a 10-times high estimate and record £20,000 was a first French language edition of Cornelis van Houten’s account of a voyage to the East Indies that opened up the spice trade for Holland.
The original Dutch text edition of 1597 was quickly revised and expanded in the following year, when French and Latin versions were also issued in Middleburg. Journal du Voyage de l’Inde Orientale… contains observations on the local topography, inhabitants, customs, trade, money, flora and fauna, and even includes a brief Malay dictionary.
All early editions are extremely rare and auction records of past decades list just two copies of the Latin edition and only this one French edition – last sold at Christie’s in 1997 for £1400.
Recased in old vellum and presenting both engraved and woodcut maps and views, it shows some repairs and has one appendix leaf in facsimile.
Sold at £22,000 was a rare set of gores for a pair of 19in diameter terrestrial and celestial globes by Matthias Greuter, dated 1632 and 1636. Born in Strasbourg, Greuter worked as an engraver in Avignon and Lyon before moving to Rome, where these gores were published.
The terrestrial globe, said Christie’s, takes its cartography from a 1622 globe by Willem Blaeu, but they note that Greuter’s globes do not include rhumb-lines and that his oceans are highly ornate, decorated with several ships and sea-monsters.
Sold at £48,000 was a copy of Edward Lear’s Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots…, the first English monograph on a single avian species and the first English bird book issued in folio format to feature litho plates.
It was originally intended to run to 14 parts but publication ceased after the 12th for lack of funds.
John Gould bought up all the remaining stock but Lear destroyed the lithographic stones after the parts were published in order to protect his 125 subscribers.
Some copies have made much more, but some spotting and toning was evident on around half of the 42 exquisitely detailed and coloured plates in this example.
Dated July 31, 1568, a framed letter in the hand of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton that comments on the fate of Mary Queen of Scots was making its third auction outing here. In 1989 it appeared at Sotheby’s and in 2013, at Bonhams, where it made £4200.
At Christie’s this summer it was estimated at just £1000-1500 but made £24,000.
Bell to Brontë
Literary firsts included the 1847 three-decker that presented in the first two volumes Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and in the third her sister Anne’s tale, Agnes Grey.
Written under the names of Ellis and Acton Bell respectively, both had been accepted for publication before Charlotte Brontë completed Jane Eyre, but that novel was published first and it was only the enormous success it enjoyed that prompted the publisher, Thomas Cautley Newby, to bring forward the release of her sisters’ novels.
Emily’s tale was bound in contemporary speckled half calf over marbled boards, rebacked to preserve the original backstrips, and the ‘supplied’ third volume bound in modern speckled half calf to style.
Bid to £38,000 on a third auction outing was Arthur Conan Doyle’s autograph manuscript of 1924-25 for The Land of Mist, the last of his three novels featuring the anthropologist, Professor Challenger.