Published 8th February 2011
The highpoint of the 30th March 2011 book sale will be a rare and highly desirable item contemporary with the voyages of Captain Cook: it is a printed catalogue of the different specimens of cloth collected in the three voyages of Captain Cook to the Southern Hemisphere.
Published in 1787, just 8 years after the violent death of Cook, it contains 39 actual specimens of cloth. It is a particularly choice copy still in its contemporary half sheep binding with marbled boards. We believe this is the first copy still in its contemporary binding to have been offered for sale in many years.
Its rarity is reflected in an estimate of £40,000-£60,000.
For more information and background to Captain Cook and his three famous voyages, please read:-
Captain James Cook (1728-1779)
The 30th March 2001 book sale will include a number of valuable early classical works published in the sixteenth century. One of the more important of these works with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000 is EURIPIDIS Tragoediae Septendecim, in two volumes, published in Venice in 1503. This editio princeps is the first complete edition of Euripides: it contains all 18 tragedies although only 17 are mentioned on the title page. There is an earlier edition of Euripides printed by Lascaris but it only consists of 4 plays.
Euripides (c 480BC-406BC) with Sophocles and Aeschylus was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens. Only eighteen of Euripides' plays have survived complete, but this is more than the total that have survived by his two fellow tragedians put together. Euripides is known for having made a major contribution to the restructuring of the Athenian tragedy. He portrayed strong female characters, and intelligent slaves, also satirising many of the heroes of Greek mythology. His plays seem modern by comparison with those of his contemporary playwrights, focusing on the emotions and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown to Greek audiences.
Silver bindings or those made of precious metals have always been unusual and early examples are rare. Wonderful examples survive from the mediaeval period mainly on priceless religious books and manuscripts, held either in major institutions or still in the religious houses that originally commissioned them. Rarely are they offered for sale.
During the Tudor period onwards they became less rare and in the following two centuries most of these bindings were produced in Holland and Germany. The engravings were often inspired by the works of the masters and the quality of the work especially of the Dutch engravers was of a superb standard. Later examples are more usually heavily embossed and without makers' marks. The subjects chosen were almost exclusively religious, with the quality of the binding often greatly exceeding the importance of the book it covered.
The eighteenth century example offered here, probably Armenian in origin, is full of religious symbolism: on one cover it depicts Christ cradling a sceptre and orb surrounded by the Twelve Apostles, on the other the Virgin Mother is seated with the Christ Child contained within a central cartouche, four scholars being depicted in each corner. It is a pierced silver and silver gilt binding with a green silk background; the spine which is defective is made of up of interlinked flowers. The binding has an unusual hinged page edge extension which is engraved with four lines of text, with a silver pin fastener. The book itself is an Armenian book of Holy Gospels. It has an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.
Amongst a private collection of the novels of Thomas Hardy, a first edition published in three volumes of The Return of the Native calls for special attention. His sixth novel (1878), it touches on themes controversial and disconcerting enough to make it difficult for the author to find a publisher. Its heroine is full of human frailties, and in its open expression of extra-marital relationships, it was seen as somewhat scandalous. But it is a great tragedy and ultimately one of Hardy's most successful pieces of writing with enduring themes that make this still a very modern novel, and one of his most popular. Bids in excess of £3,000 to £5,000 are expected for this work.
Of note are a small collection of the first editions by Ian Fleming; what makes them of particular interest is the freshness of the condition for they appear to have been un-read, being fine copies in the all important original dust wrappers. Outstanding amongst them is Dr No, with an estimate of £500-£700.