Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2018 Issue

July 10 & 11 at Forum Auctions: The Rothamsted Collection: Rarities from the Lawes Agricultural Library

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Editor's note: Rupert Powell, the International Head of Books at Forum Auctions, has been part of the book world since 1985 (longer than I've been alive). After a long career at Bloomsbury, he has been with Forum since its founding in 2016. He provides below a far more in-depth and expert preview of an upcoming sale than I ever could.

Tom McKinney

 

Since it was announced in late April, there has been a growing buzz around the book world regarding the now-imminent auction of one of the world’s finest institutional holdings of agricultural books, The Rothamsted Collection. Over 3400 volumes have been divided into 815 lots and the sale takes place in three sessions over 2 days (July 10 and 11). The door-stop catalogue is arranged chronologically with a handy index to assist with cross-referencing the numerous works on offer by the same author. 

The printed books from the library, which date from 1471-1840, are therefore preceded by 3 fine medieval manuscripts – a near-complete copy of Walter of Henley’s Hosbondrye written in Anglo-Norman and dating to the early 14thcentury (lot 1, est. £10,000-15,000) and two early 15th century manuscripts of Palladius – along with Cato, Varro and Columella, one of the four great Roman writers on agriculture – one in Latin (lot 2, est. £10,000-15,000) and the other in Italian vernacular (lot 3, est. £8,000-12,000). 

The first printed book on agriculture, the 1471 edition of Crescentiis’ Ruralia commoda, is offered as lot 4, here in a splendid copy previously owned by the Marquis d’Adda, a great Italian collector, and subsequently by Charles Fairfax Murray, whose magnificent library was sold at auction in 1917. This copy was acquired for Rothamsted by director Sir John Russell, the driving force behind the creation of the Lawes Library, in 1923 and now carries an estimate of £60,000-80,000.

There are some 20 other editions of Crescentiis’ work on offer, six of which are incunables, including the first edition printed in Italy (lot 6, est. £8,000-12,000) and the first illustrated edition, printed by Peter Drach in Speyer c.1490-95, with over 300 woodcuts and some of these coloured by a contemporary hand (lot 13, est. £20,000-30,000).

The provenance of many of the Rothamsted books is often of great significance – several books were previously owned by Richard Schwerdt, the great collector and bibliographer of works relating to Hunting and other rural pursuits; and others by André Simon, the equally revered collector and bibliographer of books on food and drink.

As well as the incunables and other early printed continental books, the collection is particularly rich in English 16th and 17th century works. A few of these are unique examples (i.e. the Rothamsted copy being the only one known); many are known in a handful of institutional copies only; and many more appear only very infrequently on the open market.  By way of example, lot 38 is a copy of the first book on farming printed in England, John Fitzherbert’s The Boke of Husbandry, c.1534. But not only is this seemingly the only copy known, it also bears the ownership signature of William Lambarde, the author of the first work of British topography (Perambulation of Kent, 1576) and, significantly, an early translator into English of Walter of Henley. The copy is estimated to fetch £4,000-6,000. 

Other notable early English works include Mascall’s A Booke of the Art and Maner, how to Graffe all sortes of Trees, first edition, 1569 (lot 100, est. £4,000-6,000); Thomas Tusser’s Five Hundreth Points of Good Husbandry, 1573 (lot 111, est. £2,000-3,000); Reginald Scot’s A Perfite Platforme of a Hoppe Garden, 1576 (lot 118, est. £4,000-6,000); Heresbach’s Foure Bookes of Husbandry, 1577 (lot 126, est. £1,500-2,000); and Thomas Hill’s The Gardeners Labyrinth, 1586 (lot 144, est. £4,000-6,000).

There are two important early works relating to food which catch the eye – lot 133 is Monardes’ Joyfull Newes out of the Newfound World, 1580, a rare work of American significance with mention of Christopher Columbus in the opening sentence and descriptions of the cultivation of rhubarb and ginger (as well as tobacco, quinine and cassava), estimated at £10,000-15,000; and the following lot entitled Here beginneth the Booke, named the Assise of Breade, c.1580, the only recorded copy, which bears an estimate of £6,000-8,000.

One of the most curious works is Leonard Digges’ A Prognostication everlasting of Righte Good Effecte…to Judge the Weather by the Sunne, Moone, Starres…, 1576. This legendary rarity is highly important because it contains the first translation into a vernacular language of the ground-breaking cosmological section of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Only three copies are recorded in institutional libraries and although the Rothamsted copy lacks the folding plate, it is still estimated to make £15,000-20,000.

There are several other books in the sale which can lay claim to be the “first” in a particular field or genre: Pena and l’Obel’s Stirpium adversaria nova, 1571 (lot 104, est. £800-1,200) contains the first published illustration of the tobacco plant (and another illustration of a man’s head smoking a long pipe); lot 313 comprises four separate works bound together in one volume and includes Forster’s England’s Happiness Increased…, the first book devoted exclusively to potatoes (est. £3,000-4,000); also featured are the first agricultural bibliography (lot 127); the first bibliography of hunting (lot 510); the first known illustration of a specially adapted case for transporting cut flowers (lot 315); the first gardening book for Scottish gardeners, sometimes also regarded as the first Scottish cookery book as the second part includes recommendations of seasonal dishes and drinks (lot 368); and lot 464, which includes the first detailed description in English of wine-making in the Champagne region of France.

The full catalogue is available online at www.forumauctions.co.uk, where you will also find images (often multiple) of every lot, plus information regarding extended viewing times in their Battersea offices as well as The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair (where the sale itself takes place), registration, bidding etc.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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