The famous silver mines of Potosi as illustrated in Pedro de Cieza de León’s Chronica del Peru… of 1553, sold for £50,000 at Forum Auctions.

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Among the most successful lots to be found in a September 29 sale held by Forum (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) was one billed as the first copy seen at auction in over 70 years of the first and only published volume of the Chronica del Peru… of Pedro de Cieza de León.

Published in Seville in 1553, it was once described as the only book that exhibits the physical aspect of the country as it existed under the elaborate culture of the Incas – but just one volume of a proposed four was ever published.

The page that is reproduced above features one of the work’s many woodcut illustrations (some of which are repeats) and is derived from the writer’s own drawing of the famous silver mines of Potosi.

In a period vellum binding with manuscript lettering to the spine, the volume sold at a low-estimate £50,000 to an online buyer.


Condition was not its greatest asset, as the title-page shows, but a 1545 first of the first English language Primer…, authorised by Henry VIII and prepared under his supervision, is a real rarity. Forum could trace no other copy at auction and this wormed, stained, browned and otherwise defective example sold at £6000.

The mysterious Mandeville

Other early rarities in the travel and exploration field included a clean and complete copy in a later red morocco gilt binding by Bedford of a work said to have been compiled by Sir John Mandeville – but one whose true origins are still much debated.

Mandeville is nowadays widely thought of as a fictional creation and Jan de Langhe, a Benedictine monk and scholar from Saint-Omer, has in recent times been suggested as the work’s true creator.

Bid to £52,000, this example of the work dating from c.1496- 99, though very rare, was one of numerous early Italian editions of the Tractato…, first published in Milan in 1480.

A work regarded at the time as comparable in importance with that of Marco Polo, it was consulted and highly valued by many of the more famous voyagers and travellers of the 16th century.

The Forum sale also included a 1555 edition in modern vellum of Marco Polo’s famous account of his own travels. One of very few early editions published in his native language, and printed by Matteo Pagano of Venice, it sold online for £30,000.

Distinguished by a distinctive ox head watermark, a single leaf from a copy of the famous Gutenburg Bible of c.1454-55 was the sale’s most expensive attraction at £55,000, going to an internet buyer.


The text showed some dampstaining and light browning, but in a contemporary and elaborately gilt binding this 1679 copy of Richard Allestree’s The Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety brought a bid of £3200 at Forum.

Frontier force

Moving forward a few centuries, a copy of the 1834 first edition of Davy Crockett’s autobiography sold at £16,000. The ‘King of the Wild Frontier’ confirms on a front free endpaper of his Narrative… that this was indeed an example of his own true history, and that an unspecified ‘other’ copy was a counterfeit.

Forum could trace only one other inscribed copy of EM Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread of 1905 at auction in almost 30 years. Its copy bore the then 26-year-old writer’s presentation inscription to a WO Milne and in its bumped blue cloth binding it sold at £11,000.

Inscribed copies of Roald Dahl’s The BFG of 1982, it was suggested, are rare, especially when signed by both the writer and its illustrator, Quentin Blake. Forum sold its doubly inscribed copy at £5000.


An annotated original drawing by Quentin Blake for The Case of the Angry Bus Conductor, part of a lot sold for £5000 at Forum.

An original drawing by Blake for The Case of the Angry Bus Conductor, annotated and marked up for printing, was one of a group of seven original artworks of c.1975 that he produced for The Listener, a BBC publication of fond memory, for this ex-subscriber at least, that ran from 1929-91.

Those artworks also included one of an eccentric inventor, and another featuring two farmers and an amorous cow. Executed in ink and chalks, and of various sizes, they too were marked up on boards, ready for printing. That lot, which sold at £3200, also included a small group of other original illustrations and photographs submitted to The Listener in the 1970s-80s, among them around 20 ink small studies by Nigel Paige.

Planetary missions

A compact section of the Forum sale that focused on photographs of astronomical and interplanetary appeal achieved several much higher than expected results.

A very red, first colour image of the Martian surface dating from the the Viking 2 mission of 1976 realised £6500, while an example of the first coloured photo of the Earth and Moon in a single image, taken in 1977 from Voyager 1, made £8500.