50 Exceptional Items From Asher Rare Books
Asher Rare Books' Jubliee Catalogue, with Redoute flowers on the cover.
By Michael Stillman
Asher Rare Books has recently issued its Jubilee Catalogue 35--A selection of 50 interesting Atlases, Books, Charts, Manuscripts and Maps. Asher Rare Books has been in the book business for 175 years. Started by Adolphus Asher in 1830, the firm counted among its clients in those early days scientists such as Darwin and Humboldt. After over a century in Berlin, Asher moved to Amsterdam during the darkening days in Germany of 1933. A decade ago, the firm made one more move, to Ijmuiden, to the west of Amsterdam.
Asher Rare Books lists its specialties as natural history, science, and travel and voyages. Here are a few of the items among their selection of fifty very special works.
Item 1, shown on the catalogue's cover (see image to the left) is a watercolor by famed flower artist Pierre Joseph Redoute. Born in Luxembourg in 1759, Redoute would develop his drawing skills, and his specialty in flowers, in France. He would be appointed an art teacher to Queen Marie-Antoinette in the 1780s. When she lost her head, quite literally, Redoute would receive appointments as artists to both of Napoleon's wives. His reputation grew like the flowers he painted, and Redoute would come to be known as one of the greatest botanic painters who ever lived. Evidently aspiring American birds artist John James Audubon met Redoute during a visit to Paris in 1828 and considered this meeting the highlight of his trip. This watercolor features three open flowers, all varieties of anemone, with the buds of a ranunculus and sweet pea in the background. The drawing is signed "P.J. Redoute." Priced at €65,000 (Euros).
Item 10 is the first French edition (a year after the first German) of Brieve & Fidele Exposition de l'Origin....de l'Eglise de l'Unite des freres.... This is a history of the Moravian United Brethren, particularly their work in Greenland, as well as with American Indians (likely in Pennsylvania) and black slaves in the West Indies. The book is noted for its illustrations, which cover two pages, of various ceremonies, including baptisms, exorcism, marriage, feet washing, and the "holy kiss." This book, printed in 1758, states no author or place of printing, though it is most often attributed to David Cranz, and Asher believes, contrary to earlier assumptions, that it was also printed in Germany, as was the German first edition. €4,500.
Item 15 is Theologia Mystica cum Speculative....by Hendrik Herpf. This is an abbreviated collection of works written by the 15th century theologian published in Cologne in 1538. Herpf is noted for mysticism in his theology, and while this book was very popular, it was placed on the prohibited list for awhile until certain offending sections were removed. This copy comes with a notable provenance. It was once owned by Pope Pius VI and contains his gold-tooled coat of arms. Pius VI served as Pope from 1775-1799, a long rule in what was a very difficult time for the Church. Its authority was challenged, first in Germany, and then France with the French Revolution. Church property in France was seized, and later Napoleon would invade its home territory in Rome. Pius VI was forcibly removed, and brought to several places, culminating with a trip over the Alps by the seriously ill Pope to Valence, France, where he died a short time later. Residents of Baltimore may recall this Pope for establishing the Diocese of Baltimore in 1789. €7,500.
50 Exceptional Items From Asher Rare Books
Volkamer's surrealistically large lemons are reminiscent of
Item 12 offers a series of maps circa 1855, along with a block puzzle. The puzzle consists of 30 cube wooden blocks. Each side of each block contains part of the image of a different map. Matching the correct sides together allows you to construct each of the six maps. Paper printed copies of the maps are also included, the maps being of the world, Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific, including Australia. €1,950.
Item 32 is another unusual item, Collection de 60 Sections Transversales de Bois....by Hermann von Nordlinger. It is a book of wood samples, evidently published for use by forestry students of the school in Nancy, France. Included are 60 paper-thin cross-cuttings of various trees native to this area. The thin samples are each placed in separate window folders. Latin and French names are provided for each species, along with a note on the collection. This book is believed to have been published in the 1870s. €2,750.
Item 18 is a Dutch illuminated manuscript from the 15th century. It is a copy of the Book of Hours, and a calendar within dates this to what must be the high point of illuminated manuscripts. The calendar covers the years 1455-1500, dating the manuscript to 1454-1455. Of course we all know what was happening down the road in Mainz at this time, and it would eventually put the illuminated manuscript industry out of business. €19,500.
Item 46 contains what Asher describes as "astonishingly beautiful illustrations of citrus fruits, flowers, exotic plants, landscapes, cities, villages, palaces, gardens and garden art .... as well as garden, building and city plans, labyrinths, etc." That is no exaggeration. The book is Nürnbergische Hesperides.... by Johann Volkamer, published 1708-1714. The book consists of eight parts in two volumes. The drawings are nothing short of works of art, especially the fruits and flowers. Some of the fruit drawings take on a surreal effect, notes Asher, reminiscent of Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach" (see the image to your left). In this case, however, it is a giant lemon. Even James would be impressed. €96,500.
Item 50 is Le Grand Atlas....from Joan (Johan) Blaeu. This is a 12-volume French edition of the great atlas published in 1667. This is a second French edition of a work originally published in Latin in 1662, and is the largest edition. The set contains 586 engraved maps and other plates. Price on request.
You may find this catalogue online at Asher Rare Books' website, www.asherbooks.com. Their phone number is +31 (0)255 52 38 39.