Printed Books, Maps & Manuscripts

June 8th 1999
(hammer prices, plus premium on the hammer price,
at a rate of 15% of the first £30,000, and 10% thereafter)
A large sale (556 lots), including a high proportion of sheet maps, with atlases, and travel books illustrated with maps.  With such numbers, it is possible to pick out only a few highlights.

Lot 34 was the Greenvile Collins's 'Great Britain's Coasting Pilot', "the first systematic survey of British coastal waters and the first marine atlas of British waters engraved and printed in London from original surveys" as Coolie Verner put it.  Evidently a popular atlas, it was reprinted up until 1792.  The first edition, as offered here, before the plates really deteriorated through overuse, gives a good idea of the quality of Collins' original survey work, and of the engraving skills brought to the 48 charts and plates. With some browning, and a little damp-staining, but on thick paper, and with the impressions good or better, it seemed a reasonable copy, but excited little interest and sold for £4,000 (estimate £4,000-4,500).

Lot 35, however, was one of the astounding results of the June sales.  It was the Dutch text edition of Johannes Blaeu's atlas of Scotland, the first atlas devoted to that country, with the maps supplied to the Blaeus by Robert Gordon of Straloch, and incorporating much valuable survey work carried out by Timothy Pont.  One of the features of this atlas is the elaborate armorials found on almost every map.  When coloured, and this copy was in contemporary colour, heightened with gold, the maps are lovely.  In my opinion, this volume is the second most attractive of all the Blaeu volumes, only eclipsed by the Atlas Maior volume of the Americas, with the breathtaking series of maps of Brazil after Frans Post.

This example also seemed not to suffer so much from the widespread browning of the paper frequently associated with this volume, so, all in all a better than usual example of the atlas.  Nevertheless, it is only Scotland, not one the more sought-after regions.  The estimate of £6,000-8,000 was on the high side, but the final hammer price £12,000 was undoubtedly a world record auction price for the volume.

Lot 37 was Thomas Gardner's 'Pocket-Guide To The English Traveller' (London, 1719), which is one of the scarcest of the pocket versions of John Ogilby's set of road-maps, also with 100 strip-maps. Despite library stamps throughout, and some damp-staining, the volume brought a creditable £1,400 (estimate £1,200-1,500).

Sprinkled throughout the sale were a number of maps from the very scarce 1636 German text edition of the Mercator-Hondius 'Appendix'. The maps were in original hand-colouring, some with minor restoration.  Found for the first time in this 'Appendix' was a small group of English county maps possibly intended to form the basis of an English county atlas.  Hover, Jansson made no further progress until his rivals, the Blaeus published their county atlas in 1645.  Jansson quickly completed his own county atlas, published the following year, in which these existing plates were heavily re-engraved. Accordingly, these early issues are very scarce, and desirable.  Offered were the Cheshire (£300; estimate £200-250), Essex (£240; Estimate £200-250), Norfolk (£200; £200-£250), Somerset (£300; estimate £200-£250.  Other British maps from this edition, but subsequently issued without plate change were the Ireland (£500; estimate £300-400), Connaught (£420; estimate £200-250), Leinster (£320; estimate £200-250), Munster (unsold, estimate £200-250), Ulster (£280; estimate £250-300), and Scotland (£420; estimate £300-400). 
Having mentioned, the first atlas of Scotland, also on offer was the early recognisable (although orientated with north at the right of the page) map of Scotland available to the collector, from Abraham Ortelius' 'Theatrum', first issued in 1573. This example was an early impression, with bright original hand colouring, and sold for £400 (estimate £300-£400).

Lot 274 was an uncommon French sea-atlas of North American waters, entitled 'Neptune de l'Amérique Septentrionale', issued in the 1820's, with 37 charts, 29 double-page.  Many of these were late printings of charts from the 'Neptune-Americo Septentrional', published for use by the French Navy in the Revolutionary War, and were based on surveys by leading figures such as James Cook, Joseph des Barres, Charles Blaskowitz, Joshua Fisher and others. Estimated at £4,500-5,000, it fetched £4,800. The next lot was the companion 'Neptune de l'Amérique Meridionale', issued in the 1820's, with 45 charts, 32 double-page, including a fine chart of the Florida peninsula, and a series of charts of West Indies' islands, again with many from surveys of the Revolutionary War period.  This item sold for £3,800 (estimate £2,500-3,000).

Lot 282 was the 1828 edition of John Thomson's 'New General Atlas'.  This edition, the last issue of this folio atlas, included a number of additional maps, including a map of 'United States and Additions', from 1828, 'A Chart of the Discoveries of Captain Ross, Parry & Franklin in the Arctic Regions ...', and Jehosophat Aspin's 'Surveys In The Interior of New South Wales [and] Van Diemen's Land.  Interest in these maps helped take the final price to £2,600 (estimate £1,200-1,400).

John Boydell is one of the most famous names in the English print trade from the latter part of the eighteenth century, but he was also responsible for publishing a small number of maps, generally relating to topical military events.  Lot 339 was one such - a plan of Havana Harbour, drawn by Thomas Kitchin Sr. and published by Boydell, in association with R. Willock, November 1st 1762.  Such items of ephemeral interest are generally rare - this map is not in the British Library's Map Library, for example - and competition on the day was strong. Estimated at £200-300, the winning bid was £1,300.


The highlight of a small section of maps of Japan was an example of Matthaus Seutter's map of Japan, published in Augsburg, circa 1740.  The map is based on a prototype by Adrian Reland, itself copied from a Japanese source, and interesting as being the first western map to use Sino-Japanese characters. In bright original body colour, and elaborately engraved scenes in the lower border, it is an attractive map, selling for £1,300 (estimate £1,000-1,200).
The final few map lots were maps of the World.  The most interesting, and most topical in view of the impending eclipse was Simon Panser's 'Astronomische Hemel Spiegel', which was issued to coincide with the solar eclipse of 1748. The map shows the path of totality from the West Indies to the Indian Ocean, but also illustrated partial solar and lunar eclipses observed in Amsterdam, between 1738 and 1748.  With its topicality one might have expected more interest, but against an estimate of £550-600, it eventually sold for £500.

In a similar vein, Homann's map of the World used the borders outside the hemispheres to illustrate variety of natural phenomena, as well as two inset celestial hemispheres.  Bonhams offered two examples, one with contemporary manuscript annotations, which sold for £850 (estimate £800-£1,200), while the second, described as a fine impression (and illustrated here) sold for £1,300 (estimate £1,300-1,500).

Part III: Sotheby's
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