Sotheby's: The Travel Sale:
Books, Maps, Atlases, Natural History
and Topographical Pictures

London, December 2nd 1999
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Prices quoted are the hammer price, which is subject to the auctioneer's premium, payable "at a rate of 15% on the first £30,000 of the hammer price and a rate of 10% on the amount by which the hammer price exceeds £30,000."
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This is the first of the London Book Department's catalogues to be laid out in the new Sotheby's house-style of three columns to the page. It would seem the style came from the Fine Art / Paintings catalogues.  I have to wonder, however, if any one stopped to think about the difficulties of enforcing one style on different catalogues.

As far as the Book Catalogues for the major sales go, it produces a very ugly layout, with a narrow outer margin, and a wide inner margin.   Coupled with this, Sotheby's have also introduced lower production standards; the binding of this and subsequent catalogues is quite simply inadequate.  My example of the catalogue fell apart during viewing.

As the catalogues cost £22 each, and production costs are offset by subscriptions, and clients paying pretty substantial amounts for photography, it is a very poor performance.  Still, I suppose Sotheby's are saving up for those court-cases.

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The first map section offered a wide selection of maps relating to the Americas, ranging in date from Waldseemuller-Fries map of the North Atlantic, from 1525 to various large-scale and pocket map of the late nineteenth century.  The Fries map(lot 195), which sold for a creditable £5,200 (estimate £4,000-6,000), buoyed by the belief that the colouring was contemporary, unusual for this series of maps.  Another early, and rare, map  was Pedro Medina's map of the Americas and Atlantic, published in 1548, here with the additional woodblock extending the coverage to include South America.  This example was offered in the original book which, alas had seen better days.  Nonetheless, the lot, 191, saw a winning bid of £7,000.
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Medina: Lot 191
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A third item that did well was Philip Durell's plan of Porto Bello, drawn on the spot, during the successful siege of that place by British forces under Admiral Vernon in 1739, and published as a broadsheet in London the following year by Samuel Harding and William Toms. This lot, 187, fetched £650, against an estimate of £400-£500.
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Durrell: Lot 187
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Most unusually, Sotheby's were able to offer several maps from the Jansson-Visscher sequence of maps of New England, with most of the maps from this sequence bearing one of two views of New York, either as the city appeared in about 1650, or as it was after the Dutch recapture of the city in 1673 (the so-called 'Restitutio' view).  Sotheby's illustrated four of the maps on a double-page spread, and three details of the inset view on a third page.

However, of the seven offered, four failed to sell: lots 203, the Jansson proto-type, from 1651 (which is without the view) and 204, the Danckerts (ca. 1685) were both handicapped by being repaired, and backed on archivist's tissue, while lots 207 and 208 were late examples of the sequence, published by Seutter and Lotter, from the 1730's onwards.  The two most desirable sold well: Nicolaas Visscher's map from ca. 1680, with contemporary outline colour selling for £4,000 (lot 206, estimate £3,00-3,500), and the Reiner & Joshua Ottens printing of Huytch Allard's version, also in contemporary outline colour sold for £3,800 (lot 209, estimate £3,500-4,500).

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Visscher: 206
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Also on offer were two early, and near contemporary, sea-charts of the NewYork / Long Island coast. The first by van Keulen example in fine contemporary colour (lot 210), was first published in 1682.  Always a popular chart, this example sold for £3,800 (estimate £3,00-3,500). The second, from 'The English Pilot. The Fourth Book', is the earliest chart of the southern New England coast.  Although rarer, this example had some restoration to the centrefold, and was trimmed to the engraved border, and was bought in at £4,400 (estimate £5,000-7,000).

Lot 236 was John White's map of the ill-fated Virginia colony established at Roanoake, published in 1590.  White, the governor of the colony, drew this remarkably accurate map from his own observations. This example, in usually good condition, sold for £9,500 (estimate £7,000-10,000).

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White: 236
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At the other end of the dating spectrum, Sotheby's, in a niche they seem to have created for themselves, offered an interesting selection of pocket, folding maps of individual states from the 1840's onwards.  One highlight was an 'Official Map of the State of Virginia', published in 1861, which is one of the earliest, and finest, maps of Virginia as a Confederate state. The map sold for £1,200, a good result, somewhat disguised by a high estimate, £1,200-1,400).
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Spread throughout the catalogue was a selection of maps from the 1490, second, edition of the Rome Ptolemy, first published in 1478.  These maps are, therefore, the earliest series available to the collector, but also, in terms of execution, the best of the four series of Ptolemaic maps.  However, they are much less popular than the rival Ulm series, principally because they were issued in black and white, and the individual maps struggled. Lot 329, the British Isles, was unsold at £4,200 (estimate £5,000-6,000), while the Italy sold for £1,900 (estimate £2,000-3,000), Russia for £550 (lot 361, estimate £500-700), Greece unsold at £1,200 (279; estimate £2,000-3,000), the Palestine and Syria sold for £2,5000 (275; estimate £3,000-5,000), the Arabia unsold at £4,000 (271; estimate £5,000-7,000), and finally Asia Minor unsold at £1,100 (272; estimate £1,500-2,000).
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Ptolemy 1490: 360
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Lot 272 offered the pair of de Jode's maps of the Holy Land from the 1593 edition of the 'Speculum'; the 'Terrae Sanctae' map, with the inset prospect of Jerusalem is among the most attractive atlas map of the region; the pair sold for £2,600, against an estimate of £3,000-4,000.
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De Jode: 282
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The highlight of the maps on offer was a group of 6 wall-maps formerly in the Fürstenberg Library at Donaueschingen.  One thing that was nice about the group was that they were in an unrestored state.  Too often maps of this type arrive on the market thoroughly cleaned, meticulously restored, and then brightly coloured.  Unfortunately, in the catalogue all the black and white images were printed with some areas slightly out of focus, most noticeably de Fer's Rhineland map.

Principal among them was lot 389, Blaeu's wall-map of Europe, complete with the letterpress title outside the upper border, two side panels of costume figures, the lower panel with vignette city views, and then letterpress text on three sides.  All issues of the map are rare, particularly in this, the most complete, form.  It is also one of the earliest maps published by Blaeu.  Against an estimate of £35,000-40,000, strong competition took the bidding to a final hammer price of £60,000.

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Lot 387 and 388 were two theatre of war maps published by Nicolas de Fer, the first of the British Isles, with the facing coast of the Continent.  The map is an interesting example of the way that some publishers would combine folio size maps to make wall-maps (the reverse can also be found); this map was cut and pasted together from about six or seven folio maps, with additional side panels, titles and tables separately printed and added to the assemblage.  A very striking piece, albeit with some damage and slight loss, the map sold for £14,000 (estimate £10,000-15,000).

The second de Fer map was centred on the course of the Rhine with its tributaries.  Within the map were small vignette views of the principal fortresses of the region, while on either side of the map were panels of text, relating to the region.  The winning bid was £8,800, against an estimate of £3,000-5,000.

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The other valuable wall-map, from a different source, was Alexis Jaillot's French pirate version of Blaeu's wall-map of the Americas (lot 393).  Jaillot's version, published in 1669, is very similar in design and execution to the original (even to the extent of retaining Blaeu's name in the letterpress title).  As with the Europe, this map was complete with the second title, two panels of costume figures, and with vignette views of towns and cities of the Americas, and the panels of text.  While a good-looking example, as a derivative it lacked the historical importance of Blaeu's original.  Even so it sold for a very respectable £60,000 (estimate £60,000-80,000).

The final section of the sale was an interesting selection of world maps.  Lot 441 was Abraham Ortelius's map of the world, from the rare English text edition of 1606, in what appeared to be contemporary hand colour.  The English text on the reverse evidently gave the map a tremendous boost, as the map sold for £9,800, a very strong price, although the estimate of £7,000-9,000 was also bullish.

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Ortelius: 441
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Oronce Fine's map of the World is constructed on an unusual double-cordiform projection.  The example on offer (lot 438), the first state of the woodcut, appeared in a book and so, inevitably invariably has narrow margins.  The map, in later hand colour, also had some restoration, but nonetheless sold well at £8,000 (estimate £6,000-8,000).

The sale also had a strong selection of atlases, with a few highlights.  Andreas Cellarius' 'Harmonia Macrocosmica', published in 1661, appeared as lot 404. It is the only celestial atlas published in the Netherlands, and "an outstanding example of atlas production from the "Golden Age of Dutch Cartography", as the cataloguer put it.  The individual charts, many depicting the constellation in human or animal form are superb examples of the engraver's art.  Even the fact that this example was, unusually, uncoloured, did little to dampen enthusiasm, as the atlas sold for £40,000 (estimate £40,000-50,000).

However, lot 408, an uncoloured example of the Mercator-Hondius 'Atlas', published in 1619, fared less well.  Against an estimate of £40,000-50,000, it was unsold at £34,000.

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Cellarius: 404
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Lot 409 was the 'North American Pilot', first issued by Robert Sayer and John Bennett, in 1775 and 1776, for use in the American Revolutionary War.  Much of the material used had been assembled by Thomas Jefferys Sr., the leading British publisher of material on the Americas until his death in 1771.  The first part (and the larger section) of the pilot relates to Canadian waters, the second to United States waters.  The atlas, elephant folio in format, contains several important and detailed charts of the region.  This example was in generally good condition, but for some reason failed to attract the attention that perhaps it deserved, selling for £30,000 on a reserve of £35,000-40,000.
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Sayer & Bennett: 409
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The atlas section provided two of the surprises of the day. Lot 407 was Mallet's 'Description de l'Univers', (Paris, 1683) a five volume in small quarto format, containing nearly seven hundred black and white engravings.  The maps and plates have a certain charm, but the engraving is not of a high standard, and the images are not very large (the page size is approximately 205 x 130mm).  So, it is an interesting, relatively unimportant, relatively common, but fun little atlas, that no-one took too seriously.  Well, that was true before the bidding started. The estimate was £7,000-9,000, probably reasonable, or perhaps a little high.  The hammer was £17,000, an astounding price, far in excess either of any previous price paid at auction, or of expectation.  However, what is surprising is that, when such records are set, there is normally an explosion of examples of the book onto the market, and this hasn't happened in this case.  Perhaps, because of the number that have been dispersed over the years, it has become a rare book, without anyone really noticing, and so maybe the purchaser was right, and the rest of the room wrong.
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The second surprise also proved the room wrong.  Lot 420 was Johannes Blaeu's 'Atlas Maior', Latin text edition of 1662, in eleven volumes, comprising 594 maps, plans and plates, in contemporary outline colour.  By all accounts it was a very nice example - I have to admit that I didn't actually look at it.  Recent examples have sold for well in excess of £170,000, so there didn't seem much point.  However, in the frenzy of activity, a lot of other people didn't look at it either.  Then the bidding stopped at £100,000 (estimate £120,000-140,00).  While the auctioneer scanned the room in a vain attempt to find a bidder to take up the chase, potential purchasers were asking each other if anyone had looked at it.  It seemed no-one had; the hammer fell, and the atlas sold to one very perplexed, but very pleased purchaser.
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Blaeu: 420
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Perhaps the rarest of the atlases was lot 416, an untitled atlas of the World, published by George Willdey.  The atlas was composed of 24 two-sheet maps, and one double-page map, which had been removed from the binding in order to be flattened, and restored, unfortunately done rather clumsily.  Willdey seems to have been a wheeler-dealer, whose shop was stocked with all manner of goods and commodities, many of which are listed and illustrated on these maps, including spectacles, scientific instruments, cutlery, toys, snuff, and so on.  The map side of his business seems not to have been very successful, and few examples of the atlas survive today.  This example, with all its faults, was still a reasonable example of this rarity, and sold for £19,000 (estimate £15,000-20,000).
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Willdey: 416
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Lot 418 was a Dutch composite atlas assembled, probably by Nicolaas Visscher's widow, circa 1706.  While a reasonable example of the atlas (the vellum binding was covered by a leather chemise, the world map was damaged without loss, and some of the maps were becoming loose in the binding), this example was interesting for some of the additional maps it contained, including a couple of rare maps of Gibraltar, relating to its capture by the British during the War of the Spanish Succession, and two rare maps published by Christopher Browne relating to North America, his 'New Mapp of Virginia, Maryland and the Improved Parts of Virginia & New-Jersey', and Robert Morden's 'New Mapp of the English Empire in America', published jointly by Morden and Browne, in 1701.  The atlas sold for £26,000 (estimate £20,000-25,000).
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Visscher: 418
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