Among the Aldines and other early examples of Greek printing that opened proceedings was a copy in a modern binding of the 1514 edition of Aeschylus’ Dictionarium.
Printed in Venice in 1514, “in the house of Aldus and Andrea Torresani”, it sold well at the sale on July 28 making £19,000.
Last seen around 10 years ago in a Bloomsbury sale, a copy in an 18th century calf binding of the 1544 editio princeps of the works of Archimedes, printed by Johannes Herwagen of Basel, made £24,000.
Travel and other illustrated works made up the bulk of this 119-lot sale.
When, in 1989, Sotheby’s sold the magnificent library of works on Greece, Turkey and the Ottoman world that Henry M Blackmer II had assembled over some 30 years, one of the highlights was a copy of Louis Dupré’s Voyage à Athènes et Constantinople… of 1825-39.
This is a work whose principal illustrated complement of 40 hand-coloured litho plates has led to it being described as “probably the most beautiful [book] ever produced on Greece and Turkey”.
Sold in 1989 for £60,000, that copy came back to Sotheby’s in 2005 to sell at £100,000.
The copy offered this summer could not reach such heights but did manage a low-estimate £50,000.
Bid to a high-estimate £30,000 was a good, clean copy of the first edition of Otto Magnus von Stackleberg’s Costume et usages des peuples de la Grèce moderne. His first published work on Greece, where he had travelled in the years 1810-14, it was printed in Rome in 1825 and is illustrated with 30 hand-coloured engraved plates.
Pirated versions with engraved plates appeared soon thereafter in Italy, England and France, but this example in roan-backed boards was a rare example of that original edition.
Bid to a low-estimate £35,000 was an ex-Blackmer copy of what is regarded as von Stackleberg’s principal achievement, a “newly completed” 1829-34 first of La Grèce. Vues pittoresques et topographiques.
As an incomplete example it had made £11,000 as part of the Blackmer library and turned up again at Sotheby’s in 2008, when it was acquired at £46,000.
The purchaser then set out to acquire the missing text and plates before having it handsomely bound in red morocco gilt by Evangelia Biza of Athens. The only complete copy that Sotheby’s could trace at auction was one that it had sold for that very same sum in 2003.
The most expensive lot on July 28 was a richly illuminated Persian Qur’an, one copied by Ahmad al-Nayrizi c.1710 and later re-marginned. It made £95,000.