Sotheby’s London is offering 192 lots in its online sale of Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History which runs until May 13.
Leading the sale is a 5 volume set of Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum (1597-c. 1606), containing 294 hand-colored engraved plates of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and Mexico. This ambitious work, originally published in 6 parts between 1572 and 1617, was edited by the German Georg Braun with much of the engraving by Frans Hogenberg. This was a pioneering publication and is the finest town-book from the golden age of cartography and Shakespeare, indeed the view of London shows the city as it would have been known to Shakespeare complete with illustrations of theatres and bear pits.
The subject of Shakespeare leads us into the section of natural history, which includes a work titled The Ornithology of Shakespeare by James Edmund Harting, this is the author’s own copy and is offered along with a number of other books and manuscripts by Harting. Harting (1841-1928) was an English ornithologist and naturalist, famous for his works on falconry and hawking, including a bibliography on the subject, his own annotated copy of which is being offered together with his archive of drawings, watercolors, photographs, and working papers housed in eight boxes. Harting had a distinguished career: he edited the Zoologist from 1877 to 1896 and was appointed to organise the Zoological Library at the newly built Natural History Museum in London in 1882, and later became assistant Secretary and Librarian to the Linnean Society. Harting was a life member of the Zoological Society; a member of the British Ornithologists' Union and a corresponding member of the American Ornithologists Union. This part of Harting’s library and archive has been preserved at his old school in England since 1934 and is now being offered for sale for the first time.
Other works of natural history include one of the great American color plate books: Elliot’s Monograph of the Phasianidae, or Family of the Pheasants (New York, 1870-2). Mengel in his book Beauty and the Beast: Natural History and Art says “Of the great nineteenth-century ornithological monographs, none save Audubon’s is so sumptuous as D.G. Elliot’s Monograph of the Phasianidae .. a rare American contribution to this elegant class of books.” The Elliot is offered alongside the Marcel Jeanson copy of Pauline Knip’s Les Pigeons; an album of original watercolor drawings of Cassowaries by Keulemans depicting the 17 species or sub-species of cassowary identified by Rothschild in his monograph on the subject published in 1900, an album of eight original drawings by Archibald Thorburn of birds of prey, and the illustrated autograph manuscript of Albert Millican’s Travels and Adventures of an Orchid Hunter.
Works on exploration and travel range from early accounts on the Near and Middle East (Nicolay’s Navigations, peregrinations and voyages made into Turkie, 1596), a fine album of 141 Chinese watercolours of costume and trades, photographs of Antarctic exploration by Frank Hurley and Herbert Ponting, a rare autograph letter by Frank Wild, to a pair of albums containing over 470 unseen photographs of Tibet and Lhasa taken during a 3 month expedition in 1938. Egypt is represented by two famous works: a tinted folio set of David Roberts’s The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia, and a magnificent copy of Maxime du Camp’s Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie from 1852, the result of travels in Egypt and Palestine in 1849-51 by the young Maxime Du Camp and his friend the novelist Gustave Flaubert. This is one of the first travel books to be illustrated with original photographs and contains the complete set of 125 salted paper print photographs.
Important atlases include a finely hand-colored example of Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarium (1595), widely recognised as the first modern atlas, which came to shape the future of cartography. "Shape and contents set the standards for later atlases, when the centre of the map-trade moved from Antwerp to Amsterdam. The characteristic feature of the Theatrum is, that it consists of two elements, forming part of a unitary whole: text and maps. This concept for a 'Theatre of the world' was followed through the 17th century. Before Ortelius no one had done this" (Koeman). Alongside this is a fine French language edition of Willem and Joan Blaeu’s Le Theatre du Monde (Amsterdam, 1643-1645), bound in 4 volumes and presented in its original gilt vellum presentation binding dated 3 July 1646, which states that this atlas was presented by François du Monstier on behalf of the University of Paris to Omer Talon (c.1595-1652), the avocat-général to the French Parliament and a state councillor.
Another cartographic highlight from the Blaeu workshop is an unrecorded issue of Willem Blaeu’s monumental set of 4 wall maps of the known continents which represent the pinnacle of Dutch Golden Age decorative cartography. Wall maps occupied a prominent place in Dutch culture, as indicators of affluence and intellectual curiosity, as demonstrated by their appearance in several of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings. The leading scholar and scientist, Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), remarked how he employed his own set of Blaeu’s wall maps of the continents as a tool to enlighten his children: “To encourage them even more, I had the four parts of the world by Willem Blaeu mounted in my entrance hall, where they often played, in order to provide them with a fixed image of the world and its division”.
Other rare maps include a splendid Chinese “Blue Map” mounted on a folding screen, a 1928 edition of al-Idrisi’s world map, a Korean edition of Ferdinand Verbiest’s world map, an unrecorded world map by Frederick de Wit and Gerard Valk, and a large Ottoman map of Arabia.
There are many other wonderful items that are also well worth viewing in this sale, including an 18th-century Japanese whaling scroll, a Chinese celestial map, a manuscript journal of an Atlantic slave ship the “Snow Fox” from 1773, the journal of an American priest in the Holy Land in 1855, photographs of the construction of the Suez Canal, an album of travel and costume watercolours of Greece and Turkey by William Page (1794-1872), and a fine painting of the Himalayas by Theodore Howard Somervell.
The sale can be viewed online at www.sothebys.com/travel