Records & Results: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books

Illuminated Manuscripts Lead Early Printed Books at Swann



Coinciding with Rare Book Week in New York City, our spring offering of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books on March 7 brought bibliophiles from near and far, with breakneck bidding for a number of items, including incunabula and first editions on medicine–but it was illuminated manuscripts that took the spotlight in the sale.


Illuminated Manuscripts

Tobias Abeloff, Early Printed Books specialist:

“The market is strong for exceptional material, and we saw significant interest in printed and manuscript Books of Hours, with bidding driving prices over estimates. The biggest surprise of the day was the manuscript Qur’an that went for more than 10 times the high estimate.”

The illuminated manuscript in Arabic with miscellaneous chapters of the Qur’an and associated prayers reached $35,000.


Double-page spread in an illuminated prayer book in Latin and French with illustration from the bible.
Lot 168: Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French on vellum, with 35 miniatures, France, 1530s-40s. Sold for $42,500.


The sale was led by an illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French on vellum, France, 1530s-40s, which featured 35 miniatures in color and gold, and sold for $42,500. Additional decorated works included a mid-fifteenth-century Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, France, at $35,000; a mid-fifteenth-century Book of Hours in Dutch on vellum, Northern Netherlands, at $22,500; and Dala’ll al-Khayrat, a 1664-65 illuminated manuscript in Arabic by Muhammad Ibn Sulayman Al-Jazuli, at $5,250.


Scientific & Medical

Scientific and medical publications included a first edition of George Agricola’s most important writings on geology, mineralogy and mining, and his monograph on ancient Greek and Roman weights and measures: De ortu & causis subterraneorum Lib. V bound with De mensuris & ponderibus Romanorum atque Graecorum Lib. V, Basil, 1546, 1550, which settled at $11,250.


Double-page spread from Anatomia by Andreas Vesalius showing anatomy illustrations.
Lot 200: Andreas Vesalius, Anatomia, with woodcut text illustrations throughout, Venice, 1604. Sold for $5,250.


A first separate printing of the first of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s three papers announcing his discovery of x-rays, Eine Neue Art von Strahlen, Würzburg, 1895, was sold for $5,200. Andreas Vesalius’s 1604 Anatomia, Venice, a landmark treatise on human anatomy, brought $5,250. A 1737-38 first edition of Icon durae matris in concave [convexa] superficie visae, Amsterdam, by Frederick Ruysch with two color mezzotints by Jan Ladmiral earned $5,250.



Incunabula featured Marcus Valerius Martialis’s Epigrammata, Venice, 1485, with commentary of Domitius Calderinus, which brought $7,500.


Illustrated bookpage of Marcus Valerius Martialis's Epigrammata.
Lot 125: Marcus Valerius Martialis, Epigrammata, Venice, 1485. Sold for $7,500.


Quaestiones de duodecim quodlibet, Venice, 1476, by Saint Thomas Aquinas that earned $6,500, and Marcus Anneaus Lucanus’s Pharsalia, Venice, 1486, with commentary of Omnibonus Leonicenus garnered $5,000.


Don Quixote & More

“The finest edition of Don Quixote that has ever been printed,”a first Ibarra edition of Cervantes’s El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha … Nueva Edición, corregida por la Real Academia Española, Madrid, 1780, in four volumes, exceeded its high estimate bringing $11,875.


Single page illustration of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Lot 54: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha … Nueva Edición,, first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. Sold for $11,875.


Additional highlights included a first edition of one of the scarcest early Italian chess manuals, and first book printed in Militello, Il Gioco de gli Scacchi, by Pietro Carrera for $10,625. The True Prophecies or Prognostications, London, 1672, a first complete edition in English of Michel de Nostradamus’s quatrains supposedly predicting historical events, garnered $5,750.


Title page with a portrait of Nostradamus's The True Prophecies or Prognostications.
Lot 212: Michel de Nostradamus, The True Prophecies or Prognostications, first complete edition in English, London, 1672. Sold for $5,750.


Complete Results.

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