A spread from the Theatrum Cometicum…, £9500 at Bloomsbury Auctions.

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Bid to £9500 was a 1681 Leiden edition of Stanislaus Lubieniecki’s Theatrum Cometicum…, an exhaustive work on comets by a Polish aristocrat that had been first published in Amsterdam in 1666-68.

In rebacked contemporary mottled calf, it contained over 80 engraved plates, mostly folding or double-page. Around half of them have the comets picked out in red, or other colours, as in the example pictured above.

Copies of this edition have made as much as £17,000, but in 1988 the fully coloured and gold heightened first edition copy in the great Honeyman scientific library made £45,000 at Sotheby’s.

In 1997 it re-appeared at Christie’s New York to sell for $120,000 (then £73,620).

Spatial awareness


Buzz Aldrin’s 1966 ‘first selfie in space’, bid to £3800 at Bloomsbury.

In ATG No 2308 I noted the $220,000 (£169,230) sale of a heavily annotated, extra-illustrated and complete flight plan from the aborted Apollo 13 lunar mission.

In the Bloomsbury sale a single printed page from the flight plan used on the Apollo 11 mission of 1969 that saw the first moon landing was sold at £9000.

A simple, unmarked time-line page covering hours 29-33 of the mission, it was later signed and inscribed Carried to the Moon on Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin.

A coloured photograph of Aldrin that claims the distinction of being the first ‘selfie’ taken in space – during a 1966, Gemini 12 orbit of Earth – sold at £3800, while a photograph of the Earth as seen from the moon’s surface, signed in gold ink by 13 astronauts who had taken part in lunar missions, made £4800.

Much more material relating to both Russian and American space programmes was offered in a September 27 sale at Bonhams New York (25/20/12% buyer’s premium), including, at $600,000 (£447,760), a full size, 23in (61cm) diameter test model of Sputnik-1, the satellite with which Russia launched the Space Race in 1957. A report will feature in a forthcoming issue.