• <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> <i>The Massachusetts Magazine: or Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment,</i> 1789. Signed by George Washington. $28,000 to $32,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> George Washington Signed Letter to John Marshall. $12,000 to $14,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Picasso Signed “Vallauris” 1952 Exhibition Poster. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Military appointment commission document signed by both President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, dated January 27, 1803. $2,400 to $2,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Doris Ulmann and Julia Peterkin. <i>Roll, Jordan, Roll.</i> New York, 1933, deluxe edition, preceding first edition of the same year. No. 74 of 350. $5,000 to $6,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> John Marshall. <i>The Life of George Washington,</i> Philadelphia, 1832. Signed by author. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Samuel L. Margolies (American, 1897-1974). Aquatint and etching, "Builders of Babylon," 1937. $4,000 to $4,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Two Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) signed documents as President of Washington College. $3,000 to $3,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> William C. Harris. <i>The Fishes of North America That Are Captured on Hook and Line</i>, Vol I., New York, 1898. 40 chromolithograph plates. $2,000 to $2,500
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> $100 "Date Back" bank note 1902 from the Clarksville National Bank, Clarksville, Tennessee, depicting the portrait of John Jay Knox, Jr. $1,400 to $1,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and Monticello, Taken from Lewis Mountain, drawn and lithographed by Edward Sachse. $800 to $1,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Large Civil War photograph mounted on card stock depicting Rossville Gap in Missionary Ridge. $400 to $450
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 39: Presidential Pardon Signed by John F. Kennedy. November 1962. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 537: Marc Chagall. <i>Illustrations for the Bible</i>. Features 28 lithograph plates. First American edition, 1956. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 252: Jack Kerouac. <i>On the Road</i>. 1957. First edition. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 143: Arthur Rimbaud. <i>A Season in Hell</i>. With photogravures by Robert Mapplethorpe. The Limited Editions Club, 1986. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 72: Group of 11 Harry Truman Signed Letters. Typed & signed by the former President. 1962-1970. $1,500 to $2,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 157: Arthur Conan Doyle. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by The Limited Editions Club. 8 vols. 1950-52. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 173: Jacob Lawrence. <i>The First Book of Moses, Called Genesis</i>. Illustrated with silkscreens by Lawrence. 1989. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 239: William Faulkner. <i>Sartoris</i>. First edition. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 286: Walt Whitman. New Year’s Eve Postcard Signed, “Walt Whitman,” to the poet Gabriel Sarrazin. January, 1891. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 351: Pair of European Fine Bindings. Including Gesanbuch (1831) & Naboznych Vylevov (1911). $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 423: August Luben. <i> Naturhistorischer Atlas der Saugethiere </i>. Includes complete set of 30 loose plates. Leipzig: 1858. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 386: <i>Famous Monsters of Filmland No 1</i>. Art by Will Elder, text by Forrest Ackerman. Warren’s first monster magazine. Feb, 1958. $2,000 to $3,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2017 Issue

The Untouched Collection

8c65f4ff-13b6-4d92-8913-298c522c62c2

A collection of old books, untouched for 200 years, was found in Bouillon, Belgium, last month. The reading room where they had remained silent for so long was haunted by the spirit of a “honnête homme” from the turn of the 19th century.



When I reached the Henri Godts’ house sale in Brussels, Belgium, on the phone, I immediately felt the excitement created by an article published by the local weekly Le Vif, a few days earlier. It was entitled: “A 200-year Old Book Collection Discovered Untouched in Bouillon”—Bouillon being a Belgian town close to the French frontier. The assistant of Mr. Godts sighed: “People keep on calling us,” she says. “Because of this article, which is full of mistakes!” It was, as it appears, written by a trainee. “Entering this room is like travelling through time,” he says. “What’s so impressive is that every book has remained in its place, probably where their former owner had left them.”



Yes, and he even... turned down the electric lamps before leaving the room! Indeed, some electrical devices appear on the pictures provided by Mr. Godts. How come? Books sell better with a good story—but this one sounded a little bit too nice. The article also quotes Mr. Godts: “When I first entered the room, I was stricken at once by the authentic atmosphere of an 18th century reading room.” Now, one almost expects to find the skeleton of the owner, sitting in an armchair while holding a first edition of Voltaire in his hand. “This is idiotic,” resumes the assistant of Mr. Godts. “We are no archaeologists!” As a matter of fact, the story appears to be simpler: an old family of Bouillon came to Mr. Godts’ house sale one day to tell him about this collection that had remained in the family house for more than two hundred years, and that they intended to sell. “Only 182 lots offered for sale on June 20 come from this collection,” underlines the assistant of Mr. Godts. But do not be disappointed. Upon examination, though less novelistic than expected, this story is still an extraordinary one.

 

As I was speaking to his assistant on the phone, Mr. Godts came in. “Here’s another one who wants to find out about the book collection!” she says, handing him the phone. Mr. Godts is no newcomer to the game—he’s been running his house sale for 35 years. He explains: “This is indeed a collection that has remained intact for two hundred years. At the end of the 18th century, its owner left France, fleeing from the Revolution (1789—editor’s note). He settled in Bouillon, in this big house, where he built this collection.



The explanations are rendered difficult by the fact that the sellers refuse to reveal their identity—and couldn’t be reached. But beyond the reputation of Mr. Godts, several points suggest that this is indeed a genuine story. First, most of these books date back to the turn of the 19th century. Second, they almost all come in their original wrappers—as issued, as booksellers say. “At the time, you bought your books unbound,” explains Mr. Godts. “The bookseller would deliver them to you fresh from the printing house, uncut, unbound, and protected by mere wrappers. You were then free to have them bound by a professional binder, according to your own taste.” In fact, binders had a privilege, and it was illegal for a bookseller to bind books.



This detail tells something about our book collector. He was probably no wealthy man. Otherwise, these books would be bound—in full morocco—, and marked with his coat of arms, wouldn’t they? Well, the French Revolution was a troublesome period, which created economical uncertainties. Nice bindings from this period are less common; and at a time when the heads of the Nobles were falling like leaves in autumn, it was wise to keep a low profile. As a matter of fact, following the Revolution, every mark of nobility was erased: statues were destroyed, graves were desecrated—the revolutionaries played soccer with the head of Cardinal de Richelieu in the yard of La Sorbonne!—and coats of arms were scratched from books. Yet, Mr. Godts is positive: “Our collector did run away from the Revolution, but he was not of noble birth. He was just a learnt man of his time, and, as such, he built the perfect collection of a “honnête homme.” Travels, science, philosophy, he was interested in all the main topics of the time.”



A perfect collection, really? “Well, several lots are incomplete, it’s true,"  says Mr. Godts. For instance, the classic travels of the Baron de Lahontan set is missing one volume, the edition of the Encyclopaedia of Diderot is also defective, as well as the voyage of La Pérouse, which comes without the crucial atlas. The owner of this collection was clearly more of a keen reader than of a bibliophile—while it takes off some sale value to his collection, it adds a lot of spiritual value to it. This is indeed a genuine personal collection from the time, which is becoming rare. “The house has remained in the same family ever since,” explains Mr. Godts. “Of course, some improvements such as electricity were made along the years; yet, this room has remained almost as a sanctuary. When I was invited, it was locked and it was indeed like entering a time capsule.” Even the furniture dates back to the turn of the 19th century! “The pedestal table, the chairs, and even the globe that you can see indeed date back to the period when the collection was built up,” goes on Mr. Godts. “But their current owners have decided to keep them for themselves.” Thus, the chair we can see on the picture is where our learned reader used to sit. There he would open one of the books sheltered on the shelves all around the room, and start reading. He probably used his globe numerous times to find about some obscure place he had just read about—and the contemporary wooden floor did resound with the sounds of his pace, two hundred years ago. Looking at the picture of the room, it is as if we could hear them ourselves.

 

Of course, the story of an untouched collection saved from limbo is made even more glamorous if it contains “invaluable” (or rather very valuable) books such as the famous Ortelius’ atlas (1575), a masterpiece quoted in Le Vif article, and which easily stands the comparison with the Mercator's—it was estimated around 45,000 euros. “Here again, this is a misunderstanding,” confesses the assistant of Mr. Godts. “This atlas is, indeed, part of the sale, but it's not coming from this particular collection.” As a matter of fact, such a book didn’t match the rest of the collection. Rare were those whose appraisal went beyond a few hundreds euros. The fact that they were, for the most part, unbound, partly explains it. “This collection is a treasure without treasures,” sums up Mr. Godts. “I'm talking about the commercial value of these books. Some are almost nowhere to be found accounts of obscure voyages, but they are not very expensive. In this regard, the appraisals are quite fair, I guess.” This collection nonetheless featured uncommon and attractive titles—enough to satisfy any serious travel books collector. On June 20, I logged in Drouotlive.com, and “e-attended” the sale. Here are a few results—prices given before the 25% commission.

 

- Krunsenstern’s Voyage autour du monde... (Paris, 1821): a nice copy in wrappers, including the atlas (torn). Appraisal: 500/600 euros. Result: 9.000 euros.

 

- Isert’s Voyage en Guinée... (Paris, 1793): a very nice copy in contemporary wrappers, complete of the two engravings. Appraisal: 120/150 euros. Result: 220.

 

- Mungo Park’s famous Voyage dans l’intérieur de l’Afrique... (Paris, 1799): a nice copy in orange wrappers, 3 maps and 5 engravings, with some tears to the back. Appraisal: 120/150 euros. Result: 250.

 

- Milfort’s Séjour dans la nation Crëck... (Paris, 1802). A good copy in wrappers. Appraisal: 100/120 euros. Result: 750 euros.

 

- The French first edition of Patrick Gass' account of Lewis and Clarke’s [sic] historical journey (Paris, 1810): a nice copy with wrappers, hinges partly cut, complete of the map. Appraisal: 120/150 euros. Result: 1.000 euros.

 

- Smith’s Relation historique de l’expédition contre les Indiens de l’Ohio... (Amsterdam, 1769): a very nice copy in wrappers, with a gorgeous map. Appraisal: 200/250 euros. Result: 600 euros.

 

- De Smet’s Mission de l’Orégon... (1848): a very nice copy in wrappers, featuring a beautiful frontispiece and some attractive engravings. Appraisal: 100/120 euros. Result: 200 euros.

 

This is but a short list of the interesting travel books only; “not to mention,” adds Mr. Godts, “a few unusual relations of several travels to the South Sea.” The sale of the collection was supposed to generate 40.000 euros... (results).

 

The trainee at Le Vif did not do a very good job. But let him who has never lost his lucidity in front of an old book be the first to throw a stone at him! There was something extraordinary about this collection. “In my career, this will remain a very special one; this is no ordinary find,” underlines Mr. Godts. But it was not possible, he says, to sell it as a unique lot—it would probably have generated less money that way. Maybe the city of Bouillon should have pre-empted the whole collection to “save” it from being scattered? But this is the fate of most collections, after all. Anyway, this reading room, which no longer exists, still reminds us of the concrete and direct bridges that old books constantly build between then and now—whether luxuriously bound or as issued.

 

Thibault Ehrengardt

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 15:</b> Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 1:</b> Vintage Posters Featuring Highlights from the Gail Chisholm Collection
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 8:</b> Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 13:</b> 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 29:</b> Printed & Manuscript African Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 12:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 26:</b> Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 3:</b> Graphic Design
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 15:</b> 19th & 20th Century Literature
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 7:</b><br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 21:</b> Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III
  • <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Snowy Heron, Plate 242. John James Audubon (1785-1851). First Edition Engravings with Original Hand Color. London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Great Blue Heron, Plate 211. John James Audubon (1785-1851). First Edition Engravings with Original Hand Color. London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> The Clouded Leopard. Charles Robert Knight (1874-1953). Oil on canvas.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> A Bouquet of Daffodils and Other Flowers with a Butterfly on the Stem. Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840). Black Chalk, Watercolor And Gum Arabic On Vellum.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> CELLARIUS, Andreas (ca 1596-1665). <i>Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et Novus</i>. Amsterdam: Pieter Schenk and Gerald Valk, 1708.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> HOMANN, Johann Baptist (1663-1724). <i>Grosser Atlas über die gantze Welt</i>. Nuremburg: J.H.G. Bieling for the heirs of Homann, 1737.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> LEVAILLANT, Francois (1753-1824). <i>Histoire naturelle des perroquets</i>. Paris: Levrault frères (later Levrault, Schoell & Co.), 1801-1805.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> FUCHS, Leonhard (1501-1566). <i>De historia stirpium commentarii insignes. adiectis earundem vivis plusquam quingentis imaginibus</i>… Basel: Michel Isingrin, 1542.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Original Manuscript Map "Plano De Una Parte De La Provincia De La Luisiana..." AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT MAP SHOWING THE ORIGINS OF THE STATE OF TEXAS AT THE TURN OF THE 19TH CENTURY.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State by Robert Creuzbaur, Houston. Hand-colored lithograph. New York: J. Atwood, 1850.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Texas. David Burr (1803-1875). Engraved Map with original hand color in full. New York: J. H. Colton & Co., 1834. Second Edition.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Map of Texas with Parts of Adjoining States Compiled by Stephen F. Austin. Engraved Map with original hand color. Philadelphia, 1830. First Edition.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> <i>Verve: Revue Artistique et Littéraire/An Artistic and Literary Quarterly,</i> nos.1-38 in 26 vol [a complete set], numerous colour lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse & others. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Wesley (John, Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism, 1703-91). Autograph Letter signed to Rev. John Bredin, 1782. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Austen (Jane). Brock (Charles Edward). A group of seventeen ink and watercolour drawings for Dent's edition of Jane Austen's <i>Sense and Sensibility,</i> 1908. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Tibullus (Albius) and Gaius Valerius Catullus. <i>Elegiae, sive Carmina,</i> Venice, Andreas de Paltasichis, 1487. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Doves Press. English Bible (The), 5 vol., one of 500 copies, signed and inscribed by Laurence Hodson, Doves Press, 1903. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Africa. Smith (Andrew). <i>Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,</i> 5 vol., first edition, original cloth, [1838-50]. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Longitude. <i>An Act for providing a Publick Reward for such Person or Persons as shall Discover the Longitude at Sea,</i> first edition of this highly important act, John Baskett, 1714. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Shirley (James). <i>Six new playes, viz. The Brothers. Sisters. Doubtfull Heir. Imposture. Cardinall. Court secret,</i> first edition, 1653. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Ugolino,</i> number 77 of 125 copies, Dublin, Dolmen Press, 1979. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Lasinio (Carlo, 1759-1838). <i>[Ritratti Originali de Pittori Esistenti Nella Reale Galleria de Firenze],</i> 99 engravings, circa 1791-96. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Japan. Kusakabe Kimbei. Photograph Album, 50 hand-coloured albumen prints, oblong folio, [c.1890-1900]. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Polar. Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, printed flyer, 1852. £1,000 to £1,500

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions