Old and Rare Books from Knuf Rare Books
Old & Rare Books.
Knuf Rare Books has issued a catalogue of Old & Rare Books 2012. The Vendome, France, bookseller specializes in the “books about books” field. They offer bibliography, specimen books, typography, fine printings and bindings, and many dealer and book auction catalogues from centuries ago. Most works are from western Europe and England, with dates primarily ranging from incunable printings to the early 19th century, though a few later works do appear. Knuf has over 25,000 books in stock, but while some of the catalogues they offer contained numbers almost that large, this one includes 119 items. Here are a few of them.
We will start with An Act for the Better settling and Preserving the Library kept in the House at Westminster, Called Cotton-House, in the Name and family of the Cottons, for the benefit of the Publick. This work provided for the disposition of what is described as “the most important collection ever assembled by a private individual in Britain.” It's creator, Sir Robert Cotton, a baronet, antiquary, and MP, lived from 1571-1631, when books were still relatively recent and all sorts of material now unobtainable was still available. However, it was not the books so much as the earlier manuscripts which made this collection spectacular. Among the incomparable items was the Nowell Codex, which contained the only remaining copy of the seminal British poem Beowulf, written sometime between the 8th and 11th century. When Sir Robert died, the library passed to his son, and then his grandson, Sir John Cotton. It was Sir John who decided the greatest private library should be turned over to the nation. This act, published in 1701, provided for the transition. That transition would occur the following year when Sir John died. Unfortunately, a significant part of the library was either damaged or destroyed in a fire in 1731 (Beowulf was singed), but the remainder then became one of the three founding collections of the British Museum and Library. Item 29. Priced at €450 (euros, or roughly $583 U.S. dollars).
Item 4 is the sale catalogue of another great collection, the Bibliotheca Askeviana, the library of Antony Askew. Askew was a physician now better known as being a bibliophile. He attempted to obtain a copy of every Greek classic, much of it coming in the form of manuscripts. After his death, Askew's collection was put up for sale. Buyers included the British Museum and the Kings of England and France. Had you the foresight to purchase a copy of this catalogue at the time of the sale in 1775, it would have cost a modest one shilling six pence, but you didn't and it is a bit more dear now. €1,050 (US $1,362).
Item 38 is a particularly large catalogue. It is Catalogus Librorum Qui in Bibliopolio Danielis Elsevirii Venales Extant. This is the catalogue of publisher/bookseller Daniel Elzevier, and it contains 20,000 listings. That includes all of the Elzevier titles then in print along with many others published in Holland. Who would have thought so many books were available in Amsterdam in 1674? It includes books on theology, law, medicine, and miscellaneous subjects, with other books available in French, Italian, Spanish, English, and German. Prices are not included, but presumably they were available “on request.” €15,000 (US $19,455).
Item 1 is a Price List and Specimen Book of Types, Comprising Chinese, Japanese, Manchu, English and Music. Evidently, music is a language! This rare specimen book was published by the American Presbyterian Mission in Shanghai in 1872. Knuf notes that the mission was originally set up in 1836, but conversions were slow, as they did not baptize their first convert until 25 years later. Come to think of it, the mission must not have ever been an overwhelming success since, as best I know it, most Chinese citizens aren't Presbyterians. Nonetheless, the mission press did lots of publishing in its day, in these and other languages. €5,000 (US $6,484).
Old and Rare Books from Knuf Rare Books
A Browning bibliography from master forger Thomas Wise's Ashley Library.
Thomas J. Wise was a serious bibliographer and collector, though history will never much remember him for those attributes. He will always be remembered as a master forger. Wise's modus operandi included printing abbreviated pamphlet editions of famous works and giving them dates prior to the publishing date of the real item, thereby creating extraordinarily rare, previously unrecorded “true” first editions. He suckered buyers for decades into purchasing his “firsts,” even though there was some suspicion, before his ruse was finally uncovered. Among the subjects Wise wrote about and collected were Elizabeth and Robert Browning. Item 104 is his A Browning Library, published in a limited edition of 165 copies for private circulation only in 1929. This copy is inscribed to Sidney H. Williams by Wise. €350 (US $453).
Item 107 is The English Portion of the Library of the Ven. Francis Wrangham, M.A. F.R.S. Archdeacon of Cleveland. That's Cleveland in York, England, not Ohio, U.S.A. While not archdeaconing, Wrangham managed to put together a collection of 14,000 books at the time this catalogue was published in 1826. Seventy copies were printed, but 51 copies were still in folded sheets when the library was sold at Sotheby's in 1843. Wrangham went for the very rare and hard to find books, but not the typical ones that the great collectors competed to obtain. He was more interested in finding the rare and obscure, books that pleased his sense of discovery, not the desires of other book collectors. You might say he collected Wrangham Style. €1,200 (US $1,556).
Knuf Rare Books may be reached at +33 (0) 254 72 26 56 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is located at www.knufrarebooks.com.