Offered at Swann (25% buyer’s premium) on October 14, the first volume, which had a French manuscript introduction and was on a French laid paper with a watermark of 1769 for both illustrations and the accompanying explanatory text, was catalogued quite cautiously as “India, pre 1842”.
Early manuscript notes record that it was said to have been brought to Europe from India by someone named Poivret, and was later purchased by a William Boom at an auction of Viscount Kingsborough’s library held in Dublin in 1842.
There are 112 full-page miniatures of Hindu gods in the first volume, interspersed with roughly the same number of text pages that tell the stories of their extraordinary adventures in legends of the Hindu world.
That page count continues into the second volume, one which features only illustrations but, being dedicated to the people of the region, contains wonderful details of their lives.
Over a hundred of those illustrations show Indians going about their daily lives or involved in different trades.
Occupations depicted include stone masonry and carving, the fabrication of metal bowls and bricks, spinning, weaving, dying, and block printing of fabrics. A traditional wedding ceremony, the ritual of the funeral pyre, an exorcism, food preparation, offerings to the gods, and the performances of wrestlers, dancers and musicians are among other subjects.
That second volume also includes 80 botanical illustrations, some depicting a rich variety of fruits.