Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2019 Issue

June 12: Landmark works 'Summa de Arithmetica' and DNA's double-helix discovery at Christie's New York

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Highlights from Christie's June 12 sales in New York

Normally, a sale featuring multiple six figure estimates, including a signed prepublication of the DNA double-helix discovery, a letter by George Washington addressing the Whiskey Rebellion, and another written by Lincoln during the Civil War, would demand all the attention of a preview like this. However, these and other lots are part of Christie’s second sale in New York on June 12. Before them is a single lot sale: Summa de Arithmetica: The Birth of Modern Business. This one item is the first appearance at auction in over fifty years of a first edition, originally bound Somma di arithmetica, geometria, proporzioni e proporzionalità by Luca Pacioli, a work renowned for being the first in many important respects. These include:

-      The first published description of double-entry bookkeeping.

-      The first print appearance of the plus and minus symbols in math.

-      The first printed work to illustrate the finger symbolism of numbers.

-      The first print appearance of the name Fibonacci and many of his ideas.

-      The first appearance of the “rule of 72” — a simple method for calculating compound interest still taught today.

-      The first popular mathematics book.

Christie’s has provided a detailed introduction, background, and history on Pacioli and his work, including the author’s relationship and influence on Leonardo da Vinci and the book’s impact on capitalism, business, and mathematics. You can find the writeup here. Math and business history evidently does not come cheaply—the Somma is estimated $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.

 

The second sale of the day is nothing to scoff at either! Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana features 232 lots of high-quality material ranging from $300 on the low end of estimates all the way to $250,000.

 

I will not pretend to be versed in complex science, but the work of Francis Crick and James Watson is known worldwide, though maybe their names are slightly less familiar than the subject matter: these are the men who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. Lot 25 is the only known prepublication copy of their 1953 paper “Molecular structure of nucleic acids: A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid.” It is signed by both and features two annotations. $180,000 to $250,000 are the estimates. The following lot, number 26, is another signed, galley proof paper, this time following up on the implications of their original groundbreaker. This one might come at a slight discount: $120,000 to $180,000.

 

As a US history buff, I’m turning my focus now to two of the most influential men in that sphere: Washington and Lincoln. Important and interesting letters from both are coming up for bidding. Washington’s letter from October 8, 1794 expresses his concerns about the Whiskey Rebellion—what Christie’s calls “the first great test of federal authority.” For anyone who has seen Hamilton or simply knows the early history of the US, the Whiskey Rebellion was a response to Hamilton’s whiskey tax—the first federal tax on a domestic product. This letter immediately precedes the federal army’s march and show of force (without a shot fired) in western Pennsylvania and the end of the rebellion. Washington’s letter is lot 126 in the sale and is estimated $100,000 to $150,000. As for Lincoln, his letter of December 21, 1861, is addressed to Major General John Charles Frémont, a man whom Lincoln had dismissed from command in November for his failure to support exposed Union forces under Nathaniel Lyon at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. The letter is both an admonishment and critique of Frémont, though Lincoln treads carefully because of his target’s political strength. As lot 144, the letter is estimated $80,000 to $120,000.

 

The online catalog for Christie’s New York’s sale of Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana can be browsed hereSumma de Arithmetica leads off the bidding at 2pm eastern time, followed immediately by the 232 lots of Fine Printed Books.

 

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b> Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Lyscosthenes, Conrad. <i>Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon,</i> Basilea: Henricus Petrus, c. 1557, first edition, folio. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Collection of Ethiopic Religious Texts, in Ge'ez , illuminated manuscripts on vellum, c. 1700-20th c. (5 pcs.) $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Augustinus, Aurelius Sanctus.<br><i>De Civitate Dei,</i> Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianus Scotus, 9 Febbraio, 1486, 4to. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Comte de. <i>Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece,</i> Paris, J.J. Blaise, 1782-1809-1822, first edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Rufinus, Tyrannius (c. 345-411). <i>Expositio in symbolum apostolorum,</i> [Cologne, Ulrich Zel, c. 1472], first edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Magnus, Albertus. <i>Summa de eucharistiae sacramento,</i> Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1474. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Strabo. <i>Rerum geographicarum libri septemdecim. A Guilielmo Xylandro Augstano magna cura recogniti…,</i> Basel, Henricpetri, (August 1571). $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Riou, Stephen (1720-1780). <i>The Grecian Orders of Architecture. Delineated and Explained from the Antiquities of Athens,</i> London, 1768. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Mair, Paul Hektor. <i>Geschlechter Buch...der...Statt Augspurg,</i> Frankfurt am Maim, Sigmund Feyerabend, 1580. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Polybius (c. 200-118 B.C.). <i>Historiarum libri priores quinque,</i> Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1549. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. <i>Columna Antoniniana Marci Aurelii Antonini Augusti rebus gestis insignis Germanis simul...,</i> Rome, [1672]. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> <i>Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Eusebii Pamphili...Eiusdem de vita Constantini...Socratis...,</i> Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544. $800 to $1,200.

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