Sotheby’s could find no auction record for Giovanni Battista Granata’s 'Soavi concenti di sonate musicali per la chitarra spagnuola…', a work published in Bologna in 1659 and known from only a handful of institutional copies. Containing some 40 pieces and complete with all illustrations, it was somewhat stained to the preliminaries, but this copy of the 168pp, oblong quarto first edition made £8000.

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Running to 167 lots, close on 60% of which found buyers, a July 7-14 sale held by Sotheby’s (25/20/13.9% buyer’s premium) offered a mix of Continental books, medieval manuscripts and music.

The day’s most expensive lot, sold at £300,000, was one of a number of 1687 firsts of Newton’s …Principia Mathematica that have been seen at auction in recent times.

Bearing the three-line imprint that identifies it as an example of the Continental issue of the work, it was a copy that seems to have found an Italian purchaser soon after publication and to have remained in that country ever since.

Music highlights


Signed with his initials and featuring an autograph musical quotation, this lithographed portrait of Franz Liszt was, at 22in (56cm) tall, reckoned by Sotheby’s to be one of the largest inscribed portraits of any composer it had ever seen. Some slight surface loss and overall browning could be seen, but it made £6500.

Beyond Newton, the music section performed particularly strongly.

Sold at £12,000 was the first full printed score of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

Published in 1830, this was a key work in the 19th century revival of interest in Bach’s work led by Mendelssohn – and his name, along those of Meyerbeer and Spohr, appears as one of the original subscribers.

This copy was in 1856 presented by Woldemar Bargiel, a half-brother to Clara Schumann, to the composer and pianist Ernst Rudorff. In return, Rudorff gave Bargiel the autograph full score of Bach’s Cantata No 130 that he had inherited from his mother, Betty Pistor, who is thought to have sung in the 1829 first performance of the St Matthew Passion.

Five letters of 1910-11 in which Bela Bartok writes to Delius about the influence of folk music on his own compositions sold at £16,000, while an album of signed autograph quotations by a number of French composers realised £15,000.

Cherubini, Saint-Saens, Massenet and Delibes all feature in the album, but the major attraction was a quotation from the well known ‘Flower Song’ from Bizet’s opera Carmen.

Signed and dated 1850, a 23pp autograph draft for a proposed three-act heroic opera by Wagner, Wieland der Schmied, realised £28,000.