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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Personality Abounds: An American Adventuress, A Sulking Painter, A Poetic Bad Boy, and a Fashion-Forward King

A Cartographic Milestone

The First World Map, Reiss & Sohn Königsberg-im-Taunus, on October 28, $164,595

World map from the 1477 Bologna edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia

This incredibly rare world map was engraved for the 1477 Bologna edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, the first printed atlas. Rodney Shirley’s monumental and definitive study, The Mapping of the World, indicates that 500 copies were printed. How many survive is another matter.

Only 31 copies of that pioneering atlas itself are recorded. In 2006, a magnificent example (one of only two still in private hands) in a period Nuremburg binding and with all 26 maps engraved by Taddeo Crivelli showing contemporary color made $3.99 million as part of Lord Wardington’s incomparable atlas collection at Sotheby’s in London. But what would collectors pay for an uncolored copy of the world map alone?

It had some faults, but 25,000 Euros always seemed a woefully inadequate estimate for this great rarity, and on auction day, it sold at $164,595 (243,600 Euros). Is this an auction record for a printed map? It depends whether you regard a sheet of printed globe gores as a map.

In 2005, a rare set of woodcut gores produced in 1507 by Martin Waldseemüller for a small terrestrial globe, just under 5” diameter, but the first printed map or globe to name America, sold for just over $1 million (£545,000) in London. Outside the auction rooms, the record is far higher still.

In 1901, a copy of Waldseemüller’s 1507 world wall map, the existence of which had previously been inferred only from references in his writings and contemporary correspondence, was discovered in the library of Schloss Wolfegg in Germany. There are some questions as to its exact date, but this 4’ 4” x 7’ 9” map, made up of twelve woodblock-printed sheets, remains a unique survivor. Both those globe gores and this unique Waldseemüller wall map have at one time been dubbed the ‘birth certificate of America.’ During a private treaty sale in 2003, the Library of Congress acquired the unique wall map for $10 million.

Derek Hayes’ article “A Million-Dollar Map” provides much more background on these Waldseemüller maps.

John Dee and a Chronicle of Altered History

The Chronicle of John Hardyng, Sotheby’s London on October 29, $90,610

Title page of the second edition of Hardyng’s Chronicle

Though he was as game for a bit of roistering as the next student and did not stay on at Oxford to take his degree, Philip Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, was considered one of the more accomplished and widely read men of his generation, both as a young man, an elder statesman, and, briefly, Prime Minister of England.

Rosebery began collecting whilst at school, but it was his marriage in 1878 to Hannah de Rothschild that facilitated even greater expenditure. His wife once joked to their daughter about James Bain’s bookshop in the Haymarket, London: “It’s your father’s toyshop, my dear.” Rosebery built up a superb library that was distributed among his various family homes. This recent London sale included books from one of his Scottish residences, Barnbougle Castle.

This 1543 second edition of Hardyng’s Chronicle … of English history was once part of the great Elizabethan library of John Dee, the mathematician, antiquary, and astrologer. In a later morocco binding, it has his signature on the title and marginal annotations on several pages. These appear to be in different hands but were all penned by Dee and seem to reflect a search for evidence to back up Britain’s imperial ambitions. Dee has, for example, underlined ‘Friselande’ and ‘Greenelande’ as territories to which he believed England might have a claim.

Harding (1378-1465) spent years writing and re-writing his verse history to accommodate swings in political power and patronage. He also provided documents to support English claims over the crown of Scotland, many of which were later shown to be forgeries. Tipped into Dee’s copy was a writ of 1458 by which, under the grant of Henry VI, the Chancellor William Waynflete was instructed to award Harding a pension of £20 for producing six such documents proving the fealty owed by the kings of Scotland to those of England.

Dee’s copy was bought by dealer Richard Linenthal.

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