On Wednesday 16th July 2014 the London saleroom of Christie’s witnessed a rather important book auction. The ‘Yates, Thompson and Bright’ sale dispersed a collection amassed by several generations of bibliophiles from the same family, offering up over 350 lots of fabulous medieval manuscripts and some choice emblem books. The sale attracted book collectors, librarians and dealers from all over the world and generated close to a staggering £5 million in the process. With so many rare emblem books on sale Special Collections, with generous financial assistance from the University Librarian and the National Fund for Acquisitions (NFA), ‘splashed the cash’ buying 9 lots, or 12 books in total to add to the Stirling Maxwell Collection. This was a great coup and beyond our wildest expectations. Book auctions are notoriously difficult to predict in advance and we were concerned that we might be outbid on a number of our targets. But fortune (not to mention the shrewd judgment of Bernard Quaritch Ltd, our agents on the day) meant that all but three items on our very long wish-list were ‘knocked down’ to us. Cue great excitement on Level 12 of the Library, I can assure you!
When it comes to identifying highlights from this great haul of booty every emblem book fan will doubtless have their own favourite. However, worthy of special mention is lot 159, our ‘big bucks buy’ purchased with considerable assistance from the NFA: a second edition of Maurice Scève’s Délie (Paris, 1564). According to Adams, Rawles and Saunders this work “constitutes a rare intermingling of emblematic material with a large-scale poetic work, which, as the first French ‘Petrarchan’ sequence of love poetry, is of great literary importance”. The arrival of the Délie gratifyingly plugs an irritating Scève-shaped hole in the Stirling Maxwell Collection, hitherto one of the few notable lacunae in its corpus of French emblem books. This is a great boon for researchers and students and a remarkable acquisition in many ways. The Délie is a work which appears at auction only rarely. Indeed, (according to American Book Prices Current) only one other copy of either this edition, or the 1544 first edition is listed as having been sold anywhere in over forty years! So, without fear of exaggeration, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity which we have been delighted to grasp with both hands.
The new acquisitions will take pride of place at this week’s Society for Emblem Studies Conference, which will include a Round Table event discussing them. We look forward to showing them off and sharing them!
The new acquisitions in alphabetical order:
- Aliciati: Les emblemes ([Lyon : Denis de Harsy, ca. 1540]): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 465
- Aliciati: In D. Andreae Alciati Emblemata (Lugduni, : Apud Ioan. Tornaesium, & Gul. Gazeium., 1556): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 468
- Baños de Velasco y Acevedo: L. Anneo Seneca (Madrid. : Por Mateo de Espinosa y Arteaga., Año M.DC.LXX. ): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 476
- Corrozet: Hecatomgraphie (A Paris : Chez Denys Ianot, Imprimeur & Libraire., 1543.): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 470
- David: Veridicus christianus (Antuerpiae : Ex officina Plantiniana,, M. DCVI. ): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 474
- Drexel: The forerunner of eternity (London: : Printed by J.N. and are to be sold by John Sweeting at the Angel in Popes-Head-alley., Ann. Dom. 1642.): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 464
- Haeften: Regia via crucis (Antuerpiae : Ex Officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti., M. DC. XXXV. ): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 473
- Hillessemius: Sacrarum antiquitatum monumenta (Antuerpiae, : Ex officina Christophori Plantini, Architypographi Regij;, M.D. LXXVII. ): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 471
- La Perrière: Le theatre des bons engins (Paris : par Denis Ianot libraire & imprimeur, demourant en la rue neufue nostre Dame à l’enseigne sainct Iehan Baptiste pres saincte Geneuiefue des Ardens. ): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 469
- Physiologus (Antuerpiae, : Ex officina Christophori Plantini, Architypographi Regij., M. D. LXXXVIII. ): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 472
- Scève: Delie (Paris, : Chez Nicolas du Chemin à l’enseigne du Griffon d’argent, ruë S. Iean de Latran., 1564.): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 467
- Willet: Sacrorum emblematum centuria vna ([Cambridge] : Ex officina Iohannis Legate florentissimae Academiae Cantabrigiensis typographi., [1592?]): Sp Coll S.M. Add. 475
Categories: Special Collections