Bellmans to Sell Collection of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts in a Dedicated Unique October Auction

14 September 2022
BIBLE, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum, probably Paris, [?]13th/14th-century, 4to (216 x 155mm), 484 leaves with 84 fine historiated initials painted in colours and gold, 19th-century morocco. Estimate £20,000 - £30,000.

This autumn, Bellmans is holding a special book and manuscript auction as part of the October sales series on Tuesday, 11th October 2022 with the majority of books coming from one collection. The relatively small but select sale will include an important illuminated manuscript on vellum of a Bible in Latin, most likely from a Parisian workshop in the 13th- or early 14th-century. The style of the illuminated illustration and decoration is characteristic of the Johann Grusch Workshop which was active in Paris between 1230 and 1270 and the bible is expected to sell for £20,000 - £30,000. It has 484 leaves with 85 fine historiated initials painted in colours and gold extending with decorative flourishes into the margins and old annotations at a few margins with numerous manicules. It had been rebound (without cutting) in 19th-century Levant crushed morocco leather by Kerr and Richardson, Glasgow.

Another highlight is the first edition of the most lavishly illustrated of all incunables - Liber Chronicarum - 'The Nuremberg Chronicle' by Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514), printed in Latin in Nuremberg in 1493 by Anton Koberger as a large folio with some 1,800 exquisite woodcut illustrations. It is one of the first printed books to successfully integrate text and illustration. 'The Nuremberg Chronicle', as the work has popularly become known, is a complete history of the Christian world from the Creation to the time of its printing. It divides this history into seven ages, citing classical and Medieval sources including Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Gaius Julius Solinus, the Venerable Bede and Vincent of Beauvais. The double-page woodcuts of towns and cities, with the single exception of that of Lübeck, are the first ever printed views, often with features and topography recognisable to this day, while some of the smaller views are more generic in nature. The double-page world map by Michael Wolgemut (Dürer's master) and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, however, is of particular interest, not just cartographically, but for its array of depictions of bizarre humanoid creatures, propagated by myth, which were then thought to inhabit the remoter regions of the world. An edition of the Chronicle in German, also printed in Nuremberg, was published five months after this first Latin edition. It is finely bound in late 19th-century panelled dark olive brown crushed morocco by Francis Bedford and also carries an estimate of £20,000 - £30,000. Both are from a small, but outstanding collection which used to form part of a private library collected over many years by a remarkable Glasgow-based family.

Another highlight of the auction is the always greatly admired The Birds of Great Britain by John Gould (1804-81) which was printed in London in five volumes from 1862 to 1873. Printed as a large folio with 367 exceptionally fine hand-coloured lithographed plates by John Gould and others with a dedication to The Right Honourable Rowland, Viscount Hill, of Hawkston, it also includes a 5-page list of subscribers. It is a particularly fine set of the first edition of "the most sumptuous and costly of British bird books" (Mullins and Swann). Gould wrote in the preface: "Many of the public are quite unaware how the colouring of these large Plates is accomplished; and not a few believe that they are produced by some mechanical process or by chromo-lithography. This, however, is not the case; every sky with its varied tints and every feather of each bird were coloured by hand; and when it is considered that nearly two hundred and eighty thousand illustrations in the present work have been so treated, it will most likely cause some astonishment to those who give the subject a thought". Not part of the same collection, it is estimated at £30,000 -£50,000.

GOULD, John (1804-81). The Birds of Great Britain, London, [1862-]73, 5 volumes, large folio, 367 hand-coloured lithographed plates, finely bound in 19th-century morocco gilt. First edition. Estimate £30,000 - £50,000.

The vendor of the Gould remembers: "When I was about five years old, just after the second World War, we would go bird watching on Thursley Common in the Surrey Hills with my aunt Sarah Clutton. Afterwards, we would go back to her house and she would get the Gould volumes out to take a close look at the birds we had spotted earlier. We all took great care of the books and they were always kept in pristine condition, but it was very much the family bird book, much loved and much used." Sarah Clutton, who worked in publishing and had a great love of books, had inherited the Goulds from her great-grandfather, John Clutton (1809-1896) who was a well-known surveyor, who founded the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and was also its first President. His name can be found listed as one of the 500 subscribers and original owners of one or all of Gould's books. The vendor inherited the books from Sarah in the 1990s.

Other items in the Scottish Collection include two volumes of 162 fine original watercolours by John Thomas Ibbetson, later Sir John Thomas Selwin, 6th Baronet (1789-1869) mostly of Scottish scenery from circa 1824. Most in bistre but about 20 in colours and each signed, the watercolours are chiefly of romantic Scottish scenery, castles and houses, and include views in West Lothian, Stirlingshire, Dumbartonshire, Argyllshire, Inverness-shire, Perthshire, Forfarshire, Fifeshire, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. The collection concludes with four views of Edinburgh, but the first watercolour in the first volume is captioned "A Tourist" with the initials "H.G.B."; while the first in the second volume is captioned "Highlander and Deer Hounds at Blair Atholl." The bookplate indicates that these two volumes belonged either to the artist's wife or daughter, Isabella Selwin - they are expected to fetch £4,000 - £6,000.

Another fine Scottish book is the rare first edition of Gawin Douglas's (c.1474-1522) first translation of a major poem from antiquity into any form of English, namely into Scottish, which was later published in London in 1553 and finely bound in the 19th Century by Riviere and Son. The xiii. Bukes of Eneados of the famose Poete Virgili Translated out of Latyne verses into Scottish metir was translated by the Bishop of Dunkeld, who was one of the first to draw the distinction between Scots and 'Inglis' and unlike many of his contemporaries, he wrote only in the vernacular, which was greatly admired by others later. Ezra Pound said about him that 'he gets more out of Virgil than any other translator' and the book carries an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000. Also included is a particularly rare first edition of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) in the original boards, published in 1822, but later beautifully boxed by Riviere. This is undoubtedly the first and most famous account of drug addiction in English literature and it had previously appeared in periodical form in the October and November 1821 issues of 'The London Magazine', but led to instant literary fame for De Quincey, whose first book it was. It is estimated at £700 -£1,000.

The collection also includes several works by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), among them a rare, first edition (one of 250) of The Cenci, printed in Italy in 1819, finely bound in the late 19th-century by Maclehose, Glasgow, and carrying an estimate of £1,500 - £2,500 and an equally rare first edition of his Posthumous Poems, published in London in 1824 with a preface by his widow Mary Shelley (estimate £500 - £800). A fine copy of the first edition of the first two cantos of Lord Byron's (1788-1824) unfinished masterpiece Don Juan (published in 1819 by John Murray) is estimated to sell for £500 - £800.

The Workes by Ben Jonson (c.1572-c.1637) was published in London from 1616-40 in three volumes and bound in near-uniform contemporary calf. This is the first collected edition of the most important collection of dramatic works printed in the 17th-century after the first folio of Shakespeare. This was the first time English plays, masques and "entertaynments" were presented as literary works equal to poetry, and Jonson's collection was the prototype for the publication of his friend and rival Shakespeare's celebrated first folio which appeared in 1623 and carries an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000.

Left: "NUREMBERG CHRONICLE" - Hartmann SCHEDEL (1440-1514). Liber chronicarum, Nuremberg, 1493, large folio, woodcut illustrations, 19th-century morocco. Estimate £20,000 - £30,000. Right: DOUGLAS, Gawin (1474-1522). The xiii. Bukes of Eneados of the famose Poete Virgili Translated ... into Scottish metir, London, 1553, 8vo, later morocco. First edition of the first translation of a major poem from antiquity into any form of English. Estimate £3,000 - £5,000.


The auction takes place at Bellmans West Sussex Auction Room and online Tuesday, 11th October from 1pm and the catalogue will launch before the 30th September.

Open for viewing:

Friday 7 October | 9am - 4:30pm
Saturday 8 October | 9am-12:30pm
Monday 10 October | 9am - 4:30pm
Tuesday 11 October | 9am - 12pm

For enquiries or further information please contact Nicholas Worskett: [email protected] | 01403 700858