The Bishop Collection: Investigations and Studies in Jade was published by the De Vinne Press in just 100 sets in 1906. Through over 90 plates, 14 original watercolours and the words of numerous specialists, it documents the entire collection of Heber Reginald Bishop (1840-1902), a railroad magnate prominent in New York’s high society at the turn of the 20th century.
He had agreed to donate his 1000-plus collection (the largest accumulation of its type in the world at the time) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the months before he died, leaving detailed instructions as to how the catalogue should be completed and distributed.
Although the project had cost close to $200,000, none of the copies were to be sold and instead presented to institutions and heads of states across North America, Europe and Asia.
This set, specially bound in morocco gilt by Stikeman & Co, has the arms of Nicholas II (1868-1918). Inside is a bookplate for the Winter Palace. It is one of only four copies of The Bishop Collection to have appeared for sale in half a century.
It was bought by the London rare book dealer Charles Traylen at Christie’s in 1972 and was acquired by Alan Hartman the following year.
Hartman, who died earlier this year, was one of the greatest dealers of his generation. Born into an art and antiques dealing family in Manhattan in 1930, his firm Rare Art became a byword for excellence with galleries in New York, Dallas and Palm Beach. In particular, he was recognised as an authority on jade. He acquired his first Chinese hardstone carving at the age of 12, beginning the collection that was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong for a mighty $40m in 2006-07.