Archive for the ‘Books and manuscripts’ Category
AbeBooks has sold a rare 1765 ornithology book for $191,000, making it the most expensive item in its 19-year history.
The book, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo e adornata di figure intagliate in rame e miniate al naturale, normally translated and shortened to A Natural History of Birds, was published in Florence in Italian in five volumes. It contains 600 beautiful hand-colored engraved plates of birds. Commissioned by Maria Luisa, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, the book took ten years to complete. This copy’s fine condition coupled with the fact that only ten complete copies have been offered at auction in the past 40 years, helped assure a record price.
Here is the bookseller’s description: Together 10 volumes. Folio (19 x 15 inches). 6 plate volumes: 600 EXCEPTIONALLY FINE engraved plates with original hand-colour after Manetti, Lorenzi and Vanni (a few plates loose, one or two marginal stains, top outer corner of plates 100 and 101 affected by damp, plates 197 and 198 torn in upper margin, plates 221 and 225 with repaired tears (without loss), plates 267 and 336 slightly shorter,). 4 (of 5) text volumes: elaborately engraved half-titles by Lorenzi after Giuseppe Zocchi, 2 letterpress title-pages with engraved vignettes, one in Latin and one in Italian in each volume, parallel text in Latin and Italian, engraved allegorical plate by Lorenzi in volume IV, descriptions for 480 birds (small wormhole on first leaf in text volume I without loss, r1 and T1 of text volume I with marginal repairs).
Contemporary speckled calf backed marbled paper boards, the spines in six compartments with five raised bands, red morocco lettering-piece in the second, the others with gilt-ruled borders and small decorations (a bit scuffed, but attractive). Provenance: with the contemporary gilt initials “F.B.” at the foot of each spine; remains of later printed paper shelf labels at the foot of each spine, early shelf-marks to endpapers. First edition of a great 18th-century ornithological book. Manetti was a physician and director of the Florentine Botanical Gardens from 1749-1782.
Manetti worked almost exclusively from real specimens, beginning with the extensive collection of Marquis Giovanni Gerini. The result was one of the largest surveys of ornithology attempted up to that date, a work which became ‘the flamboyant forerunner of the splendid ornithological folios which were to appear in the nineteenth century. The production of its five massive folio volumes must have been one of the most remarkable publishing ventures ever undertaken in Florence. Begun in 1767 and completed ten years later, it was larger, better engraved and more vividly coloured than any previous book on birds’, notable for its lively posturing of the specimens which seem to reflect ‘the habits and mannerisms of contemporary Italian society’ (Dance p.70); Nissen IVB 588; Wood p.450; Fine Bird Books p.10; Zimmer I, 241. Bookseller Inventory # 72nhr128
Certainly all of this is worth following up. Feather by feather, leaf by leaf, tome by tome: this is how we discover the world.
Ornithological flights leave in all directions from this page:
The British Library has digitised more than a quarter of its Greek manuscripts (284 volumes) and made them freely available online at
www.bl.uk/manuscripts. The groundbreaking project was funded by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Researchers have access to high quality digital images of a major part of the Greek manuscripts collection, with metadata which enables them to search using key words.
The British Library holds over 1000 Greek manuscripts, over 3000 Greek papyri and a comprehensive collection of early Greek printing. These collections make the Library one of the largest and most important centres outside Greece for the study of over 2000 years of Hellenic culture. The Greek manuscripts contain unique and outstandingly rich information for researchers working on the literature, history, science, religion, philosophy and art of the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean in the Classical and Byzantine periods.
The Greek manuscripts that have been digitised provide witnesses of the rich culture of the Greek-speaking peoples from the time of the Iliad and Odyssey throughout the Hellenistic, early Christian, Byzantine and Ottoman eras and beyond. They are fundamental to understanding of the Classical and Byzantine world.
The Theodore Psalter
– Produced in Constantinople in 1066, this highly illustrated manuscript of the Psalms is arguably the most significant surviving manuscript illuminated in Constantinople. It is one of the greatest treasures of Byzantine manuscript production and of pivotal importance for the understanding of Byzantine art. Made for Abbot Michael of the Studios monastery there, it is named after its scribe and illuminator, the monk Theodore who produced 435 marginal illustrations that act as a commentary on the text of the Psalms.
-A late 12th century gospel book which is rare because of its integration of images of Christ’s life into the Gospels. Whereas portraits of the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, became a traditional feature of copies of the Gospels in Greek, narrative images were much less frequently included. This manuscript contains 17 narrative images of the life of Christ and the saints in addition to the four evangelist portraits.
Dialogues of Lucian
– This early 10th century manuscript is the oldest surviving manuscript of the works of second-century author Lucian. The text of the Dialogues is accompanied by marginal commentaries, or scholia, in the hand of the first owner of the manuscript, Arethas of Patrae, Archbishop of Caesarea from 902. They illustrate the deep interest of a prominent Byzantine churchman in classical antiquity and its pagan literature.
– The discovery of this manuscript on Mount Athos in 1842 gave rise to the first edition of Babrius’s fables in 1844 and this manuscript remains the principal source for this text. It contains 123 Aesopic fables and was corrected by the great Byzantine scholar, Demetrius Triclinius.
– A late 9th-century manuscript of the history of the Byzantine Empire from the death of the Emperor Maurice in 602 to 713, by Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople. Only one other manuscript of this history survives and is kept in the Vatican Library. These two manuscripts preserve a very rare attempt by a Byzantine author to write what would be accepted as proper history.
Scot McKendrick, Head of History and Classical Studies at the British Library, said: “This website offers everyone, wherever they may be in the world, the opportunity to engage for the first time with over 100,000 pages of newly digitised, unique manuscripts which provide direct insights into the rich written legacy of the Greeks of classical antiquity, Byzantine times, the Renaissance and beyond. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which funded this project, has generously agreed to fund a second phase and we look forward to presenting a further 250 manuscripts in full in 2012.”
Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, said: “The British Library has one of the world’s great collections of Greek manuscripts. This is exactly what we have all hoped for from new technology, but so rarely get. It opens up a precious resource to anyone – from the specialist to the curious – anywhere in the world, for free. We should all be very grateful to the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and to the enterprise of the British Library. I’m looking forward to a new wave of fascinating and important work on this material, made possible by this new electronic open access.”
For more information please contact
Julie Yau, Arts Press Officer, British Library
+44 (0)20 7412 7237 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation. It includes: books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. www.bl.uk
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (www.SNF.org), an international philanthropic organization, makes grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and medicine, and social welfare. While prominent in its support of Greek-related initiatives, the Foundation’s activities are worldwide in scope. The Foundation funds institutions and projects that exhibit strong leadership and sound management and that have the potential to achieve a broad and lasting impact. We encourage grantees to collaborate, and we work closely with them to monitor their progress. In addition, the Foundation actively seeks to support projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as effective means for serving public welfare.