Two very different items sold for $380,000 (£294,575) each at Christie’s (25/20/14.5% buyer’s premium): an Aldine editio princeps of the works of Aristotle and a 1777 broadside announcing America’s first National Thanksgiving celebration.
Following the victory at Saratoga in October, the Continental Congress had recommended that December 18 of that year be set aside for “solemn thanksgiving and praise”.
Just three copies of the broadside, its text believed to be largely the work of Samuel Adams, are held in US institutional collections and this rare example was last seen at auction almost a hundred years ago. The whereabouts of two other copies that came to auction around the same time are today unknown.
The most expensive of the cartographic lots, at $240,000 (£186,045), was Henry Pelham’s Plan of Boston in New England…, a two-sheet engraved map published in London in June 1777. During a nearly year-long siege of Boston, Pelham, a confirmed loyalist, reconnoitered the landscape armed with a pass from James Urquart, the town major of Boston, that is reproduced at the upper left corner of the plan, along with a cleverly drawn pair of compasses.
Once part of the extensive Nina & Arthur Houghton collections, a manuscript survey plan produced by George Washington to show some of the Ohio River lands in the Kanawha Valley that he had been granted in acknowledgment of his service during the French & Indian War sold at $80,000 (£62,015).
Yet another ex-Houghton cartographic highlight, but in this instance of particular European appeal, was a double portolan chart of the Mediterranean produced in 1617 in Messina, Sicily. Though signed by Placido Calorio y Oliva, said the cataloguer, it may well have been the work of Joan Oliva but embellished by a family member after he had left Sicily.
Sold at $42,000 (£32,560) was a copy of Plantin’s 1558, second edition of André Thevet’s Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique…, a key source on the peoples and natural history of Brazil and what was then a French colony in South America.
A 9ft (2.74m) long manuscript panorama of the ‘Procession to the Christening of the Prince of Wales’ produced in 1841 by the teenaged George Augustus Sala depicts a comic parade marking the birth of the future King Edward VII that includes members of the royal family, court officials and some less familiar figures. Among the latter is the Boy Jones, headed “private secretary to her Majesty,” but actually a teenager who kept breaking into Buckingham Palace.
Many years later, in 1877, Sala gave the panorama to Sir Edward Lawson, then editor of the Daily Telegraph, and in his inscription includes the words “Some of these days it may be accounted a curiosity and fetch something at Christie’s”.
It did – $7500 (£5815).
The auction ran from October 1-16.