Christie's (King Street)
Cartography, June 1st 1999

(Hammer prices, plus premium on the hammer price, 
at a rate of 15% of the first £30,000, plus 10%
of any sum in excess of £30,000).
Sale total, including premium, £ 739, 247.
A relatively new innovation on the part of Christie's, their sales devoted to Cartography have offered a wide range of rare, interesting and unusual items.  This slim catalogue, with 64 lots, was no exception.

Two items that immediately caught my amateur's eye - but alas not those of would-be purchasers - were two items of Chinese origin, a terrestrial globe from the last quarter of the 17th century, and a mechanical celestial globe from 1830. The first piece (lot 21) was a 38cm diameter globe, engraved on brass.  The globe's influences were western, presumably via the Jesuits, with the cataloguer making a link with Johannes Blaeu's 68cm globe of 1645 and 1648.   The globe appeared unfinished, with Europe and America lacking place names, as found in Africa and Asia.  The catalogue noted "No free standing chinese globe in metal appear to have surviving from this period of geographical activity, and THIS MAY WELL BE A UNIQUE EXAMPLE", but despite the age and rarity it was unsold on the day (estimate £50,000-80,000).

The other, lot 52, was described "as one of six recorded chinese mechanical celestial globes in the early 19th century in the Jiangzu province of China", engraved on copper with an internal mechanism of western manufacture.   While interesting, the item seemed to read better than it looked, and it was unsold against an estimate of £30,00-£50,000.

One of the active markets at the moment is the Arabian, either western items relating to the region, or items published in Arabic.  Christie's offered three lots in Turkish in Arabic alphabet, published by Ibrahim Mütferrika, in Constantinople, between 1730 and 1732, which were always bound to attract considerable interest, and so it proved.

The first, 'Tarik al-Hindi al-Gharbi' [A History Of The West Indies] contained four maps of western origin, including an oval map of the World with California as an island, and thirteen other illustrations. The First Edition of the first Turkish book illustrated with woodcuts, it was printed in an edition of only 500 copies, and possibly proscribed, as the woodcuts contravened Islamic law by depicting living things.  Estimated at £3,000-5,000, the lot fetched £9,000.

The second book, by Katib Celebi, was entitled 'Jihannuma' [Mirror Of The World]. The First (and only) Edition, it contained 22 maps (two Worlds, the four Continents, the two Poles, Japan, Arabia and other regions of the Middle East), four repeated from the previous lot.  However, the book lacked possibly as many as five plates (the references cited referring to varying plate counts). Estimated at £8,000-12,000, it brought a winning bid of £15,000.

The third lot contained three separate maps from the 'Jihannuma', the two Worlds and the Americas. The three sold for £5,000 (estimate £5,000-7,000), which from an uninformed view point, seems curiously out of step with the price the book fetched.

Having thus covered the items I know nothing about, back to the western items from the sale, which were arranged in roughly chronological order, which I will follow in this review.

So, as auctioneers traditionally say, I will start with lot 1, which was also the first surprise of the day. It was an example of the First, Latin text, Edition of Hartmann Schedel's 'Liber Cronicarum' (the Nuremberg Chronicle). In the description the cataloguer noted that several leaves were supplied from another example, and that the World map, among other leaves, had been restored with manuscript reinstatement.  The volume was coloured throughout, "by a 16th century hand", but here also with some reinstatement. With these faults the estimate of £65,000-70,000 looked wishful, but the colour attracted the necessary attention, and the item fell to a winning bid of  £60,000.

By contrast, lot 2 an example of the second edition, with German text, and with similar problems of condition, but in black and white, failed to sell on an estimate of £15,000-20,000, an indication of the weight that can be attached to early colour.

Lot 3, an unsold item from Christie's series of sales of the Feltrinelli Collection, was a rare "Lafreri-school" map of south-eastern Europe, by the leading cartographer of the school, Giacomo Gastaldi.  While the four individual sheets can be found, it is rare to find the four joined together. One of Gastaldi's most important works, it sold for £12,000 (estimate £12,000-15,000).


The second surprise of the day came with lot 8, a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes of 16cm diameter, composed of  printed gores on paper, pasted over wooden spheres. The gores were engraved by Mario Cartaro, and published in Rome in 1577.  Christie's could locate only one other made-up pair of the globes, and one pair of the gores in uncut state.  While the estimate seemed strong (£120,000-150,000), it seemed justified by the fact that the celestial is the "first Italian printed celestial globe" and the terrestrial globe "is the second printed terrestrial globe in Italy, following on from the work of [Livio] Sanuto in Venice in 1570" (although Benedetto Bordone's woodcut globe of ca. 1508 would take precedence if an example is ever found).  As one expects with globes of this each, condition was not perfect but, despite their rarity, they were unsold.
The next lot was a Dutch portolan chart, illuminated with ink and colours on vellum, drawn by one Dierck de Vrij, dated circa 1575-1580.  The chart depicts Western Europe, but extends westward to southern Greenland (and the mythical island of 'Brazil').  An attractive piece, it is decorated with the flags of the various nations, and two ornate compass roses.  At that date, it represents an early foray into the portolan tradition by a non-Mediterranean cartographer.  That, coupled with a good provenance, encouraged strong competition, with the lot finally selling for £77,000 (estimate £40-60,000).
One of the more unusual items was lot 12.  Christopher Saxton was the first to publish an atlas of the counties of England and Wales, first issued in 1579, and re-issued with minor changes in the preliminary material until about 1590.  Thereafter, for fifty years the plates disappear, before emerging, circa 1642, in the hands of the London print-seller William Webb. Webb made few changes to the plates, apart from changing existing dates to 1642, and substituting the arms of Charles I, before re-issuing the atlas with the title-page dated 1645.

R.A. Skelton (County Atlases of the British Isles, vol. I) knew only of another William Web, a bookseller in Oxford, assumed that this was the publisher concerned, and then hypothesised that the London address was that of Webb's printer rather than of Webb himself, introducing some confusion, and various avenues for speculation. 

The Christie's example, however, was sold without the title, and in a limp vellum binding, so that it could be rolled.  Unusually, the volume contained only 25 of the 34 county maps, with only those showing coastal counties present, arranged in geographic order, clockwise round England and Wales, from Kent.  The volume also lacked the general map of England and Wales, but was supplemented by Willem Blaeu's map of Ireland, and a rare, unsigned, map of Scotland, that I attribute to Thomas Jenner.  The cataloguer speculated that the volume might have been assembled for shipboard use, which would certainly make an interesting story as I certainly wouldn't have wanted to navigate Cornwall's hazardous coastal waters using a land map!

An interesting and, in this form, unique item, the fact that it was incomplete served as only a minor deterrent, and the atlas sold well, at £30,000 (estimate £30,000-40,000).

Jumping forward, another rare English atlas, and another item I wouldn't want to going sailing with, was John Seller Sr.'s 'Coasting Pilot' (lot 22), one of the first generation of sea-atlases published in England, issued by the first English publisher to challenge the Dutch monopoly in this field.  The 'Coasting Pilot' was first published in 1672, entered in the Term Catalogues for Hilary Term, 1672 (from January 20th to Lent). 

In describing their example, Christie's placed too much reliance on a seemingly well-informed manuscript note inside the front cover.  The 'Coasting Pilot' goes through two quite distinct stages, each found in two editions. From 1672 to 1679, Seller had controlling interest in the title, so the maps contained bear his imprint.  After 1679, control passed out of Seller's hands, and subsequent editions contain maps predominantly by the new owner, William Fisher, and his partner, Richard Mount.

This example had the title-page, datable to the period 1677 to 1679 - when Seller had to take on three partners (including Fisher) to avert impending bankruptcy - supplied from another example.  Otherwise, both in text and chart, this was an early issue, from 1672 or thereabouts. It contained 17 charts on 11 maps-sheets, while the comparable British Library example contains 20 charts on 13 sheets, which should probably be construed as complete - if such a thing is possible with a Seller publication, which are notorious for the haphazard approach to their composition.

On inspection, the atlas was a very nice example, so the pre-sale estimate (£1,000-1,500) seemed very low, as was shown on the day, when the bidding finished at £7,000, a price I think the new owner can be satisfied with.

While I have a soft spot for Seller's items, lot 13 had to be the outstanding lot of the sale.  It was a presentation copy, from the Dutch States General, of the first volume of Johannes Blaeu's Dutch townbooks, a large paper copy, in presentation binding, with the complement of 128 maps, plans and views supplemented with eight additional maps of Dutch provinces. The two volumes were coloured throughout to a very high standard, then lavishly heightened with gold and silver.  Estimated accordingly (£60,000-80,000), it attracted much attention, before selling for £95,000.
Lot 16 was an example of Blaeu's 'Atlas Maior', Dutch text edition, with 602 maps, in 9 volumes.  A very attractive set, in a contemporary vellum binding - and very much nicer than the Chatsworth House example sold at Sotheby's earlier this year for a hammer price of £205,00.  However, this example mysteriously struggled, selling on the lower estimate (£160,00-180,000).  Post-sale chit-chat suggested that the competitors at Sotheby's were principally interested in acquiring a French text edition, so they could read the text, as well as admire the maps.
Lot 42 was a wall-map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 'Mappa Geographica Novissima Hungariae Divisi In Suos Comitos', compiled by Ignác Müller, engraved by Johann Christoph Winkler, and published on twelve sheets in 1769.   The map was commissioned for official use, although its circulation was apparently restricted until the start of the nineteenth century.  This example, with the sheets joined together, mounted on linen, with rollers, was evidently used in such a role, and seemed both well-preserved, and very striking. It sold for £7,000 (estimate £5,000-7,000).

The next lot, a comparable wall-map of the Tyrol, was compiled by Peter Anich, a cartographer of peasant stock, the son of a charcoal-burner.  On the death of his father, he is believed to have been barely literate, but he went on to become one of the most distinguished globe-makers and surveyors of his period in the Tyrol.  As an aside Anich made a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes of 40" diameter.  The construction of the pair, which required a great deal of effort on his part, took him several years, but they were finally completed in 1759.  Then he sold them, and a problem emerged - they were too large for the doorway of his workshop!  He ended up having to take out the door, and dismantle part of the adjacent wall.

Anich started a survey of the southern Tyrol, but with official encouragement, from the Empress Maria Theresa, for example, this developed into a survey of all the Tyrol.  Unfortunately, Anich died before the map was completed, but the work was continued by his pupil Blasius Hueber, and published in 1774.  This example, with the twenty sheets joined, mounted on linen, and with rollers seemed a good example of this important and attractive wall-map.  On the day, however, no-one could be tempted, and the map was unsold (estimate £5,000-7,000).

One of the most important maps on offer was Thackara and Vallance's engraving of Andrew Ellicott's official ground-plan for the city of Washington.  Intended for distribution to promote land-sales in the city, Thackara and Vallance promptly published a reduced pirate version, pocketed the profit, and then proceeded with the full-size version in a very dilatory manner.  In disgust, Ellicott turned to the Boston engraver Samuel Hill, who quickly completed his task.  So while this is the "Offical Plan", the Hill takes chronological precedence.  Both plans are rare (yet by coincidence, an example of the Hill was offered at Sotheby's, the week after the Christie's sale).  The Christie's example sold for £4,500 (estimate £4,500-5,500).
The last few lots of the sale were wall-maps from the nineteenth century, and it was here that the sale really came to life, as purchasers and underbidders competed at price thresholds one would not have anticipated before sale.  For me, lot 59 was probably the biggest surprise of the sale. It was a wall-map of the World, by Henry Teesdale, published in London in 1839.  Printed on two sheets, each mounted on linen for folding into the original folder, totalling together 1290 x 2020, and in bright original colour, it looked an attractive example.  The estimate, £3,000-4,000, was a lot less attractive, but when the auctioneer opened the bidding, two would-be owners quickly took the map up to £4,800.  I suspect that Christie's will be offered several examples in the short term!

Lot 61 was 'Mitchell's Reference & Distance Map Of The United States', performed by James Young, and published by Samuel Augustus Mitchell in 1849.  Issued on nine sheets joined, totalling 1460 x 1820mm, and fully coloured,  it was described as "ONE OF THE FINEST GENERAL MAPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY". A detailed inset focussed on Texas, apparently shown as a Republic, and the Western States.  The room evidently agreed with the cataloguer's enthusiasm, as the winning bid was £9,500 (estimate £5,000-7,000).

Lot 62 was J.H. Colton's 'Map Of The United States Of America', on four sheets joined, totalling 1335 x 1520mm, fully coloured and mounted for wall display.  Again the cataloguer highlighted the importance of the material for the Western States, with the new boundaries of Texas, Utah, New Mexico and the new State of California all depicted.

Part II: Bonhams Part III: Sotheby's
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