Published 10th April 2015
The Spring 2015 Antiquarian Book Auction provided the usual excitement with some good results being achieved, some of which are reviewed here.
Carl Raswan's The Raswan index and Handbook for Arabian Breeders (BK13/262) fetched £1,800. Raswan lived from 1893 till 1966. He was a great connoisseur of horses and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of them. He was constantly trying to find the perfect horse and, partly inspired by the writings of Lady Anne Blunt (an important British Arabian horse breeder), he became immersed in the culture of Arabia and Arabian horses.
Eventually Raswan settled in America and continued his work there. He even changed his surname to Raswan from Schmidt after a favourite horse. Towards the end of his life, Raswan began to put together an extensive list of Arabian horse bloodlines, published in several volumes over several years (and indeed the last ones posthumously). It remains an important work of reference for Arabian horse breeders to this day.
The volume of wallpaper designs by Le Corbusier (BK13/11), commissioned by Swiss manufacturer Salubra. Le Corbusier was a modernist architect whose designs attracted approbation and derision in equal measure. There can be no question that he was influential. This series of designs was published in 1959 and was the second produced by Le Corbusier, the first having been published in 1932. It unsurprisingly exceeded its estimate of £500-£700 and achieved a hammer price of £1,200.
Rome has a fascinating underground world which is sometimes overlooked by contemporary tourists. It includes catacombs and villas which have been excavated over the years. Some of the earliest work in this regard was undertaken by Antonio Bosio and his extraordinary archaeological achievements were recorded in the work Roma Sotterranea (BK13/81), which was published three years after his death in 1632. Lavishly illustrated, the copy in this sale fetched £900.
Early and interesting photography plays an increasingly important part in these sales: one such lot was a group of 32 19th century photographs of India (BK13/312) including principally military or architectural subjects. These may well have been produced professionally at the time by Frith or a similar company and were mostly fairly faded with some tears. Still, their early date (probably the 1860s) and the wonderful insight they gave into colonial India ensured stiff competition at the auction. In the end they achieved a hammer price of £1,600. Another work which attracted attention was a work containing photographs of the Mandalay and Upper Burmah Expeditionary Force by Col Robert Blackhall Graham (BK13/309). Despite being somewhat affected by damp, this volume fetched £1,000.
Book sales include all kinds of printed matter quite apart from books, and a particularly charming example of this is a child's game in the form of a horseman (BK13/43), made out of painted cardboard. The horseman sits astride his steed, which stands up by means of slots in a stand. There are then different costumes for both the rider and horse that are slipped over them. This game was made in Austria, probably in the 1860s, and was in remarkably fresh condition, which resulted in it selling for £310.
Maps are also an expanding section of these sales and good copies of maps by the great cartographers continue to sell well. This sale also had the added benefit of a depiction of our own home county. The map of Devon by John Speed (BK13/362) was highlighted with bright and attractive colours and fetched £520.