St Catherine leaf left from manuscript
Among many treasures to be found in the Roger Martin collection of Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, a Bloomsbury Auctions sale taking place on July 6, is an illuminated leaf from a late 15th century manuscript of the Légende de la Vie de Sainte Catherine de Sienne (pictured above).
A French translation of the Legenda Maior of Raymond of Capua, it was made for Louis de Gruuthuse, the wealthiest and, other than the reigning ducal family, the most important patron of the arts in the Burgundian Low Countries.
Around 1500, however, his entire library was given by his son to King Louis XII of France.
When Francis I, another bibliophile and a ruler known as the father of the French Renaissance, succeeded Louis on the French throne in 1515 he had the Gruuthuse arms overpainted in many of the books in the collection and the manuscript’s subsequent history is complex.
This richly illuminated life of St Catherine of Siena is thought to have been broken up and the key, illustrated leaves largely dispersed by the late 18th or early 19th century.
Believed to date from the years 1470-80, the leaves that were the manuscript’s main attraction have in relatively recent times come to be recognised as the work of an artist known only as the ‘Master of Margaret of York’ after a manuscript made for the wife of Charles the Bold, or by a member of his Bruges workshop.
A few other leaves have come to auction and this one was last seen in a March 2013 auction held by Cowan’s of Cincinnati, where a brief catalogue entry suggested a Franco-Flemish origin and a date of c.1510.
Roger Martin secured it at the time with a bid of $1900, but in this summer’s Bloomsbury sale it is estimated at £20,000-30,000.
Fine floral initial to start off
Bearing a fine floral initial and at the lower part of the page a crowned armorial device bearing the initials G and A, this leaf from a 1490, Venetian printing by Bernardinus Benalius of the Epistolae of Saint Hieronymous is part of a Bellmans of West Sussex sale of July 15.
The staining at the foot of the leaf is unfortunate, but in a contemporary binding of red calf over wooden boards that features metal bosses in the form of stylised flower heads, and neatly rebacked some time ago to preserve the original spine, it is valued at £2000-3000.
Pioneering Caxton printing of Cicero
Star turn of a July 14 sale at Christie’s is a newly discovered copy of William Caxton’s 1481 editions of English translations of Cicero’s De Amicitia (On Friendship) and De Senectute (Old Age).
The first work of classical antiquity printed in English, issued by England’s pioneering printer and publisher, it is one of a selection of important early English books from the family library of the Barons Kenyon.
Though reported to some scholars in the 1950s, it is also a volume that seems to have escaped notice in any census or bibliography. One of only five copies remaining in private hands, all of them imperfect, this rarity (now in a 19th century binding) is part of a lot, valued at £250,000-350,000, that also includes a seven-leaf fragment another of Caxton’s rarer imprints, The Knight of the Tower.
This guide to the education, moral and social conduct of young noblewomen was written by a 14th century knight, Geoffroy de la Tour Landry, for the guidance of his own daughters.
Sensitive English critics of later centuries, however, decried the work for what they deemed its unpardonable indelicacy and grossly offensive passages. Caxton’s edition survives in only half-a-dozen other copies, all now in institutional collections.
Rudyard’s roar of the jungle
A truly remarkable 1919 French edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book is estimated at €80,000-120,000 in a Sotheby’s Paris sale ending on June 25.
The cover of Marius Michel’s binding for the first volume features a silver relief version of one of Paul Jouve’s 130 illustrations, depicting Mowgli’s protector and mentor, the black panther Bagheera, while the second volume bears a lacquer painting of Bagheera by Jean Dunand.
Only 125 copies were printed for members of the literary group that commissioned the edition and of those, only seven featured the Bagheera cover plaque in either gold, silver or bronze.
The second volume of this exceptional copy also contains one of only 15 suites of extra illustrations printed and signed by the wood engraver, artist and binder François-Louis Schmied, along with two original gouaches by Jouve.
Golding gift to family of spiritual guide
An exceptional 1954, Faber first of Lord of the Flies coming up for sale at Forum on July 7 is inscribed by its author “I sent this to Adam Bittleston in 1954. Apparently I wrote nothing in it – now I rededicate it to Karin Bittleston. William Golding.”
Golding and Karin’s father had become close friends while at Oxford together, and Bittleston, who was later ordained, proved a confidante, spiritual guide and inspiration to the young author.
His advice and thinking, notes Forum, influenced much of Golding’s life and work but his most visible contribution was as the inspiration of the kind, eccentric character of Nathaniel in Golding’s 1956 novel, Pincher Martin.
In a first state jacket, priced at 12s 6d (a little over 60p), this special copy of Lord of the Flies is now valued at £6000-8000 in a Forum sale called Signed and Inscribed: A Gentleman’s Library of Modern Literature.
A woodcut vignette of two men hewing trees dominates the title-page of a 16pp work called Here begynneth the Boke of the Arte or Crafte of Graffynge and Plantyng of Trees.
Preserved in a 20th century binding, it shows some soiling and marginal restorations, along with a few early ink annotations, but no other copy is known at auction.
“Imprinted at London in Lothbery over against S Margarets church by me Wyllyam Copland” and perhaps dating from 1565, it also contains a much later note about its great rarity and its purchase for £52 from London dealers Maggs in the 1930s.
In a Bonhams sale of June 24 it is estimated at £10,000-15,000.
Henry VIII enhanced by ‘women binders’
Estimated at $5000-7000 in a July 15 Focus on Women auction at Swann in New York is a fine example of the work of the Guild of Women Binders.
Founded in 1898 by bookseller Frank Karslake, it provided women with an opportunity to learn the craft and market their work. Karslake’s daughter Constance was in charge of the workshop near her father’s Hampstead Bindery, where women already trained in the arts were enrolled a few dozen at a time.
Although a short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful venture that ended in Karslake’s bankruptcy in 1904, bindings produced by the workshop included some finely executed Art Nouveau designs. Boasting full and elaborately decorated inner dentelles, this one was made by Miss Bromhall and Miss Marriot for a 1902, limited edition copy of AF Pollard’s Henry VIII.
Matisse makes his mark
Henri Matisse is seen here in one of 33 tipped-in photogravure plates, each with facsimile signatures of the subjects on the mounts, that appear in a 1913 first of the American photographer, Alvin Langdon Coburn’s Men of Mark.
In portraits that were produced under his personal supervision, sitters also include George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, Auguste Rodin, Henry James, WB Yeats, Mark Twain, JM Barrie and Roger Fry.
In its original cloth binding and lotted with a 1922 first of More Men of Mark, it is estimated at £2000-3000 in a 20th Century Photography sale being held by Dominic Winter on August 11.
Miracles do happen
The July 28 sale at Tennants of Leyburn will include a number of inscribed copies of CS Lewis’ works from the collection of a lifelong friend, Cecil Harwood (1898-1975).
The dedication copy of Miracles: A Preliminary Study of 1947, estimated at £300-500, is inscribed “with all loves from C.S.L.” for Cecil and his wife, Daphne, who was a friend in her own right.
Other lots include Lewis’ annotated copy of a 1932 edition of the Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson’s 13th century collection of Norse sagas, Heimskringla – a reminder of his early engagement with the subject – that is estimated at £700-1000.
The binding is clearly not the original and a somewhat later addition, but this copy of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, or the Parish Boys Progress, coming up as part of a July 21 auction, is a three-volume first edition of 1838 and Vols I & II, says saleroom Toovey’s, are first issues.
The guide price in Washington, West Sussex, is £500-700.