Earlier this year, we invited hundreds of antiquarian and rare book dealers to submit their most noteworthy sales of books or manuscripts over the past twelve months. Fine Books staffers then sifted through those entries and culled the list down to twelve outstanding items. Thanks to all who participated!
Australia’s First Book
It was the Sydney-based rare book dealer Hordern House that sold this rarity to a private collector: Francois Pelsaert’s Ongeluckige Voyagie, Van’t Schip Batavia… (1647), showing the first views of Australia in the first Australian book. Pelsaert’s account of the “unlucky voyage” and wreck of the Batavia off the western Australian coastline in 1629 and its gruesome aftermath is the first published account of any voyage of Australian discovery. A small quarto, the book contains six full-page plates comprising fifteen separately engraved images. According to the bookseller, this is one of only two copies of the first edition known to be held outside institutions. The price was $485,000 (AUD), or about $358,000 (US).
Darwin Association Copy
A first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection… (London: John Murray, 1859) is a high spot for many collectors and can be found at auction with regularity, but this copy is something special: inscribed by Leonard Darwin, Charles Darwin’s son, with related material bound in at the end, including a two-page letter signed by Darwin, and an unrecorded offprint of a paper on Darwin’s work. A private American collector purchased it for $120,000 from Salt Lake City’s Ken Sanders Rare Books. Bonus points for the slip bound in at the end by Sir Charles Langham, 13th Baronet of Tempo Manor, noting that Leonard Darwin had signed the book while visiting him, and that in 1946, the book was appraised at £20.
Book image Courtesy of Ken Sanders Rare Books.
(Almost) Unbroken Provenance
From Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford, England, comes this 547-year-old book, printed in Venice by the famous French printer and type designer Nicolas Jenson, no less. Additionally, this third edition of Quintilian’s Quintilianum eloquentiae fontem has, according to the bookseller, “an almost unbroken, and somewhat distinguished, provenance since publication, all English, including an archbishop of Canterbury and two Wardens of All Souls.” Sold at £50,000 ($65,600), it now resides in a UK library.
Courtesy of Blackwell’s
If size mattered, the submission sent by Zinos Books in St. Paul, Minnesota, would top this booksellers’ best-of list. The three-volume elephant folio set of Dante’s La Divina Commedia, printed in Milan between 1931-1941, that they sold late last year weighed about 250 pounds! Commissioned in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of Dante’s death, this monumental edition is illustrated by one hundred sublime colored lithographs based on Italian artist Amos Nattini’s original watercolor paintings. Bound in full calf, the set is “rarely found on the market,” said the bookseller Nicholas P. Zinos, thus the $12,500 price tag.
Courtesy of Zinos Books