The lots pictured and described here, drawn from UK, German and US sales held around the turn of the year, all have bindings that enhanced their appeal and value, or in some cases were the lot’s principal attraction.
1. The lot that attracted the most competitive bidding in a Ketterer Kunst (25/20% buyer’s premium) sale of November 26 was No 1 of 50 deluxe copies of Lucian of Samosata’s ‘Dialogues of the Courtesans’ illustrated by Gustav Klimt.
Part of an edition of 450 published in 1907 in Leipzig as Die Hetärengespräche des Lukian, these copies feature collotype plates of 15 drawings – some of a rather erotic nature – from a series of studies made for Klimt’s famous ‘Water Serpents’ paintings.
With text printed in black and gold these special copies also boasted a striking Wiener Werkstätte binding, designed by Joseph Hoffmann, that features a large coppered lettering panel. It sold at €23,400 ($20,590).
2. Published in 1687, this first illustrated English edition of Don Quixote boasts a fine contemporary binding of red goatskin gilt, thought to be the work of Robert Steel.
The translation was made by Milton’s nephew, John Phillips, but its use of slang – referring to ‘Knighthoods and Shitehoods’ and giving Don Quixote a dose of the clap – horrified some of his contemporaries. They accused him of putting the language of Billingsgate into the mouths of Spanish ladies and noblemen and his translation was never reprinted.
This copy, lacking one of the eight engraved plates, but handsomely bound, was sold for £15,000 as part of an online sale at Sotheby’s (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) that ended on December 10.
3. One of the very first jewelled bindings designed by George Sutcliffe is seen here on one of just 14 vellum copies of a 1903 edition Spenser’s Epithalamion and Amoretti. Bound for Bumpus of Oxford by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, it made a mid-estimate $17,000 (£13,490) at Christie’s New York (25/20.12.5% buyer’s premium) on December 4.
4. Another fine example of Sangorski & Sutcliffe’s luxury bindings, and from the library of one of their best customers for such work, Phoebe Boyle of Brooklyn, this one was made for an 1858, A&C Black edition of William Falconer’s poem The Shipwreck with wood-engraved illustrations after Birket Foster. An anchor, shells and denizens of the deep feature in the design.
In an online only sale ending on December 17 at Sotheby’s New York (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium), it sold for $18,000 (£14,285).
5. Sold for a treble-estimate $14,000 (£11,110), also at Sotheby’s New York in that December 17 sale, was one of three special copies of English Lyrics from Spenser to Milton, edited by John Dennis and printed in 1898 by the Chiswick Press for George Bell & Sons.
These copies were printed on vellum and have the numerous illustrations, many of them full-page, along with the text vignettes by Robert Anning Bell, all delicately hand coloured by Gloria Cardew. The flower-strewn morocco bindings were the work of Rivière.
6. In contemporary and generally well-preserved Scottish bindings of elaborately gilt stamped black morocco, this 8vo Holy Bible printed by John Baskett of Oxford in 1739 was sold for £1400 at Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) on November 29.
7. Sold for £2100 in a January 10 sale held by Cheffins (22.5% buyer’s premium) in Cambridge was a copy of Vavasor Powell’s The Way to True Happinesse, leading to the gate of Knowledge of 1642, bound up with a 1671 ...Concordance to the Bible. It was the contemporary binding of morocco gilt that, despite some losses and defects, provided this lot’s principal appeal.
A Welsh-born nonconformist and preacher, Powell was several times imprisoned for his troubles, by both Cromwell and Charles II. Incarcerated for much of the last decade of his life, he died in London’s Fleet Prison in 1670.
8. A near-contemporary scribal manuscript compilation of his poems that made close to £400,000 at Sotheby’s in London on November 30 (see ATG No 2373) was the big John Donne sale of last year – but just days later at Christie’s New York (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) there appeared a very fine copy of their posthumous first appearance in print.
As well as being billed as the tallest copy ever seen at auction, this 1633, first collected edition of the Poems also boasted a good contemporary binding of speckled calf and was bid to $35,000 (£27,560). When last seen at auction, in Christie’s London rooms in 2004, as part of the Halsted B Van der Poel library, it had sold for £26,000.