Offered in a recent US sale was a set of the four folio volumes that make up The Atlantic Neptune, a monumental 18th century work that, as the catalogue entry noted, was once described as “…the most splendid collection of charts, plans and views ever published”.
Bid to $800,000 (£634,920), this set was offered on April 26 as part of the Jay I Kislak collection of books and manuscripts, which was being sold by Sotheby’s New York (26/20/13.9% buyer’s premium) to benefit a family foundation.
Published at the direction of the Admiralty in the years 1774-79 and intended “…for the Use of the Royal Navy of Great Britain”, this great work features among its numerous illustrations some 116 engraved charts. Some of them are folding and in many instances include other inset plans, maps and vignette views. Most are coloured or tinted by hand.
Some foxing, browning, offsetting, sepia wash show-through and other shortcomings were noted in both the content and the bindings, but the volumes were held securely in half brown morocco folding-cases and buckram chemises.
This set was last seen at auction in 1967, when offered by Parke Bernet as part of the splendid Thomas W Streeter collections.
Much more recently seen at auction, at Christie’s New York in April 2016, was a splendid set of the 12 volumes that make up De Bry’s Great and Small Voyages of 1590-1624.
Six years ago this example of a truly monumental work sold at $450,000, and it was estimated this time at $400-600,000, but fell some way short of expectations at just $280,000 (£222,045).
Bid to $140,000 (£111,110) was a very rare 1574 first in the original limp vellum binding of William Bourne’s A Regiment for the Sea…, the first original work in English on the art of navigation and one that appeared in some 14 other English and Dutch editions over the next 30 or so years.
Little Prince creator
And now for something completely different – an undated letter concerned with problems encountered with aircraft tyres and bearing two related diagrams by its author that sold for $32,000 (£25,395).
An unlikely attraction, one might think, but it was the three other ink and pencil sketches in the corners of the letter that were the great attraction. It was one written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and those marginal additions featured his most famous creation, The Little Prince.
That hugely popular children’s book drew heavily on the author’s experience of crashing his aircraft in the Sahara in 1935, but in its exploration of loneliness, friendship, love and loss, has become a revered text.
Despite age and health problems, Saint-Exupéry was a very experienced aviator and joined US forces as a reconnaissance pilot during the Second World War.
In 1943, the year in which The Little Prince was first published, he received his embarkation papers for North Africa, but in July the following year he disappeared during a flight over southern France.