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Prices Of Early Printed Books

( Originally Published 1898 )

IT is impossible in the following chapters to do more than select some of the chief classes of valuable books in order to indicate the changes that have taken place in the prices. It will be noticed that the great enhancement of prices which is so marked a feature of the present age commenced about the beginning of the present century.

Bibliomania can scarcely be said to have existed in the seventeenth century, but it commenced in the middle of the next century, when the Mead library was sold. Still it attracted little attention until the sale of the Roxburghe library in 1812, when it had become a power. In the middle of the present century there was a dull time, but during the last quarter the succession of sales realising, one, two, and three thousand pounds have been continuous, with occasional sales realising much larger amounts. Great changes have occurred at different times in the taste of collectors for certain classes of books.

We may obtain a good idea of the public taste in hooks by analysing a list of the highest prices obtained at three such representative sales as the Sunderland, the Hamilton Palace, and the Ash-burnham libraries.

At the first of these the largest prices were obtained for the first editions of Bibles, classics, Italian poets, &c.; at the second, fine bindings took the lead ; and at the third, Bibles and Cantons, and other early literature occupied the first place.

All these classes are dealt with in the following chapters. In the present one, the most important among the early Bibles, the first editions of the classics, and early Italian literature are recorded. These are among the chief of those books which have been steadily rising for years, and now stand at enormous prices.

It is not safe to prophesy, but there is no reason to doubt that if riches continue to increase these prices will also advance. As these books are placed in great libraries they naturally become scarcer each year. We must, however, always bear in minci that the number of libraries and individuals who can afford to spend thousands of pounds on single books are few, and if they are reduced, those who remain in the field are likely to get hooks cheaper.

While the first editions of the classics will probably always keep up their price, later editions have experienced a fall from which they are never likely to recover. Scholarship and knowledge of manuscripts have so greatly advanced, that many of the old high-priced editions are now hopelessly out of date, and good German texts, which can be obtained at a few shillings, are naturally preferred.

The Delphin and Oxford classics, which were once so much sought after, have now sunk to a comparatively low price. The large paper copy of Dr. Samuel Clarke's edition of "Caesar" (2 vols. imp. folio, 1712), of which only twenty-five copies were printed, was once a high priced book. The Duke of Grafton's copy fetched 164, and Topham Beauclerk's L44. There is a story connected with the latter, which should he noted. Beauclerk gave four guineas for his copy to the mother of a deceased officer, the sum she asked, but when he was after-wards told by his bookseller that it was worth seventeen guineas, he sent the additional thirteen guineas to the lady. Certainly the Sunderland copy fetched L101 in 1881, but this was a special case, owing to the connection of the great Duke of Marl-borough with the book. The Duke of Hamilton's copy, which had belonged to Louis XIV., sold in 1884 for L36 ; but Beckford's copy, bound in red morocco, only brought f6.

Block books are of such excessive rarity that they have always been high priced, but like the earliest books printed from movable types, they have greatly increased in value of late years. This is seen in the case of the copy of the second edition of the Biblia Pauperum, which fetched L1050 at the Earl of Ashburnham's sale. This same copy brought L257 at Willett's sale, but at Hanrott's the price fell to the small amount of L36, 15s.

The following are some of the prices that those magnificent books the Mazarin Bible and the first Bible with a date have realised :

Biblia Sacra Latina (Moguntiae , Gutenberg et Fust, circa 1450—55)

On vellum—G. & W. Nicols, 1825, £504 (Messrs. Arch for H. Perkins). H. Perkins, 1873, £3400. Earl of Ashburnham, 1897, £4000.

On paper—Sykes, 1824, £199, 10S. (H. Perkins). Hibbert, 1829, £215. Bishop of Cashel, 1858, £595. H. Perkins, 1873, £2690. Thorold (Syston Park), £3900. Earl of Gosford, 1884 (vol. i. in original binding), £500. Earl of Crawford, 1887, £265o. Earl of Hopetoun, 1889 (one leaf injured, and slightly wormed), £2000.

Biblia Sacra Latina (Moguntiae, Fust et Schoeffer, 1462) [first Latin Bible with a date] On vellum Duc de la Valliere, 4085 francs.

Count MacCarthy, 4750 francs.

Watson Taylor, 1823, £215.

Same copy.

Dent, 182 7, £17 3 H. Perkins, 1873, £780.

Earl of Crawford, 1887, £1025.

The Lamoignon copy, bought by Mr. Cracherode for 250 guineas, is now in the British Museum.

Sunderland, 1881, £1600. Thorold, £ 1000.

The Latin Version of the Psalms, in its second edition, by Fust and Schaeffer, 1459 (printed on vellum), sold at Sykes's sale for £136, 10s. At the Syston Park sale (Thorold) it brought ,£4950, a greater price even than has been given for the Mazarin Bible. It has been erroneously stated that this was the MacCarthy copy, which was sold in 1815 for 3350 francs. The MacCarthy copy was bought by Hibbert, and at his sale in 1829 it became the property of Baron Westreenen.

Biblia Latina, folio Venetiis (N. Jenson), 1476, printed on vellum, capital letters illuminated, in red morocco, sold at the Merly sale for £168. Beckford copy (supposed to be the same copy) sold in 1882 for £330. H. Perkins, 1873, £290.

The first edition of the Bible in English (translated by Coverdale), 1535 (with some leaves mended), was sold at the Earl of Ashburnham's sale for £820. Dent's copy £89 in 1827 (title and two leaves in facsimile). Freeling's copy, £34, 10s. in 1836. Dunn Gardner's, 1854 (with title and one leaf in facsimile), .£365. H. Perkins, 1873 (title and two leaves in facsimile), £400. Earl of Crawford's (imperfect), £226.

The first edition of Tyndale's New Testament (1526) sold in Richard Smith's sale, 1682, for 6s. Ames bought the Harleian copy for 15s. This was sold at Ames's sale, 1760, to John White for £15, 14s. 6d. It was sold by White to the Rev. Dr. Gifford for twenty guineas, and bequeathed by Gifford, with the rest of his library, to the Baptists' library at Bristol.

The Complutensian Polyglot (6 vols. folio, 1514—17) is said to have cost Cardinal Ximenes £40,000. Six hundred copies were printed. The following prices have been paid for the one vellum copy in the market, and for some paper copies :

Three on vellum—(1) Royal Library, Madrid; (2) Royal Library, Turin ; (3) supposed to have been reserved for the Cardinal. Pinelli, 1789, £483, bought by MacCarthy. MacCarthy, 1817 £676 (16,000 francs), bought by Hibbert. Hibbert, 1829, £525.

On paper—Harleian copy, sold by Osborne for £42. Maittaire's imperfect copy sold for 50s. Sunderland, £195. Earl of Crawford, 1887 (general title wanting), £56. Beresford Hope, 1882, Z166. W. H. Crawford (Lakelands), 1891, £100.

The vellum copy sold in the Pinelli sale was, according to Dibdin, taken to Dr. Gosset when on a bed of sickness, in the hopes that the sight might work a cure on that ardent book-lover.1

John Brocario, son of Arnoldus Brocario, the printer of this polyglot, when a lad, was deputed to take the last sheets to the Cardinal. He dressed himself in his best clothes, and delivered his charge into Ximenes' hand, who exclaimed, " I render thanks to Thee, O God, that Thou hast protracted my life to the completion of these biblical labours." Ile told his friends that the surmounting of the various difficulties of his political situation did not afford him half the solace which arose from the finishing of his Polyglot.2 A few weeks after the noble enthusiast died.

Plantin Polyglot Bible, 1569-72, 5 vols. Five hundred copies printed ; greater part lost at sea.

Earl of Ashburnham, 1897, on vellum (wanting the "Apparatus "), £79.

Walton's Polyglot Bible, 6 vols. folio, 1657 (with Castell's Lexicon), does not keep up its price.

Seaman, 1676, £8, 2s. Bernard, 1698, ,£10. Duke of Grafton (without Castell), £38, 13S. Edwards, £61. Heath, £73, 10s. (bought by the Earl of Essex). H. Perkins, 1873, £19, 15s. At the Wimpole library sale (Lord Chancellor Hardwicke), 1888, a copy of Walton without Castell fetched Z9, Ss. The Ashburnham copy, which had be-longed to Henry, Duke of Gloucester, fourth son of Charles I., with his name on the binding, which was in blue morocco, sold in 1897 for £28.


AEsopus. Fabule Latine et Italice. Neapoli, 1485; first edition of AEsop with the Italian version. Hibbert's, L17 ; Libri, 480 francs ; Earl of Ashburnham, £203.

ANACREON. Lutetiae, 1554, on vellum. Sunderland, 1881, £221.

ARISTOTELES. Opera varia. Venetiis, 1483, 2 vols. Earl of Ashburnham, 1897 (printed on vellum), each volume decorated in the highest style of Italian art of the period, fifty-nine beautiful historical and ornamental initials, £800.

CICERO. Opera Omnia Mediolani, per Alex. Minutianum et Gulielmos fratres, 1498–99 [first edition of the collected works], four vols. in two, folio, old yellow morocco. Sunderland, £30, 10s. Epistolae ad familiares. Rome (Sweynheym et Pannartz), 1467, folio, the first edition and the first book printed in Rome and in Roman letters. Sunderland, £295.

CICERO. Epistolae. Venetiis, a Nicolao Jenson, 1471, folio. Mead, £3, 3S.; Askew, L11, 16s.; Sunderland, £12. Orationes. Adam de Ambergau, 1472, folio. Askew gave £3, 5s. for his copy, which was bought by Dr. Hunter at his sale for £12. It is now at Glasgow University. Sunderland, L618.

CLAUDIANUS. Opera. Venetiae, 1482, first edition. Mead, L2, 2s. ; Askew, L7, 15S. ; Pinelli, Z9, 9s.; Sunder-land (broken binding), Z4.

GELIIUS (AULUS). Noctes Atticae. Rome (Sweynheym et Pannartz), 1469, folio, first edition. Pinelli, £58, 16s. (printed on vellum) ; Sunderland, 1790.

HUMERUS. Opera Omnia. Florentiae sumpt. Bernet Nerii Nerliorum, 1488, two vols. folio, first edition, The British Museum copy was purchased for Z17 ; Wodhull, £200 Sunderland, £48.

Homeri Odyssea Graece. Florentiae, 1488, first edition. Duke of Hamilton, 1884, very large and fine copy, red morocco, by Clarke & Bedford, £25. On vellum (one of the four known to exist). Dent, part 1, 1827, £142, 16s.

HORATIUS. Opera. 1470, small folio, first edition, with a date. Sunderland, L29. The Naples edition of 1474 is called by Dibdin "the rarest classical volume in the world," and it was chiefly to possess this book that Earl Spencer bought the famous library of the Duke of Cassano.

JUSTINUS. Venetiis, per Nicolaum Jenson, 1470, small folio, first edition. Mead, £3, 3S.; Askew, £13, 13S. (sold to the British Museum) ; Pinelli, £18, 7s. 6d. ; Sunderland, Z15.

JUVENALIS ET PERSIUS. Editio Princeps. Dr. Askew gave Z3 for his copy; at his sale it was purchased by the British Museum for thirteen guineas. Livius. The first edition, printed at Rome by Sweynheym and Pannartz, as is supposed, in 1469. The only copy printed on vellum which is known to exist is now in the Grenville Library (British Museum). It was for years in the possession of the Benedictine Library at Milan. It was bought by Sykes at J. Edwards's sale (1815) for £903. At Sykes's sale (1824) it was bought by Payne and Foss for £472, 10s. These booksellers sold it to Dent, and at Dent's sale (1827) 'bought it again for Grenville for £262, 10S., a remarkable instance of depreciation in price of a unique book.

The editor of this series contributed an article on this copy to The Library (vol. i. p. 106). The arms of the Borgia family are beautifully painted on the first page of the text, and it has usually been sup-posed that Cardinal Roderigo Borgia (afterwards Pope Alexander VI.), to whom it belonged, was Abbot of the monastery of Subiaco (where the first productions of Sweynheym and Pannartz were executed) at the time the book was printed. It is proved in the article, however, that the abbey was not conferred upon Borgia by Sixtus IV. until 1471, so that the connection is merely a coincidence_ This magnificent volume was probably executed for Borgia, whose character, as delineated by Raphael Volaterranus, is evidently imitated from Livy's character of Hannibal.

LUCANUS. Pharsalia. Romae (Sweynheym and Pannartz), 1469, folio ; fine edition, of which only 250 copies were printed. Askew gave £6, 16s. 6d. for his copy, which was bought at his sale by De Bure for £16 ; Sunderland, £38.

LUCIANUS. Opera. Florentiae, 1496, folio, first edition. Askew gave £2, 12S. 6d. for his copy, which was sold at the sale of his library for £19, 8s. 6d.; Pinelli, £8, 18s. 6d.; copy on vellum in the Sunderland library, L59.

MARTIALIS Epigrammata. Ferrara, 1471, quarto, first edition of Martial, and the first book printed at Ferrara. Mead, £4, 14s. 6d.; Askew, L17 ; Combes, £6o, bought for the Bodleian.

OVIDIUS. Opera. First edition. Mead, £2, I2S. 6d.; Askew, £10, 15s. Romae (Sweynheym et Pannartz), 1471, three vols. folio, probably second edition. Sunderland, £85. Venet. in aedibus Aldi, 1502--3, three vols. 8vo, first Aldine edition. Sunderland, 19; copy on vellum (Askew, £63) sold to Lord Spencer.

PLATO. Omnia Platonis Opera. Venet. in aedibus Aldi, 1513, folio, first edition. Sunderland, £31. Copy on vellum, Lord Orford gave £105 for it ; Askew purchased it for one-fifth of that price. At his sale it was bought by Dr. William Hunter for 10s. It is now in the library at Glasgow University.

QUINTILIANUS. Institutionum Oratoriarum lib. xii. Romae, 1470, folio, printed on vellum. Sunderland, £290.

Institutiones Oratoriae. Romae (Sweynheym et Pannartz), circa 1470, folio. Paris library, £26, 5s., now in Cracherode library (British Museum) ; Sunderland, £26.

SALLUSTIUS. Venetiis, VindeIin de Spira, 1470, quarto or folio. Mead, £5, 17S. ; Askew, £14, 3S. 6d. Sunderland, £19, 10S.

SILIUS ITALICUS. Rome (Sweynheym et Pannartz), 1471, folio, first edition. Askew gave three guineas for his copy, which was bought for the British Museum at his sale for £13 , 2s. 6d. ; Pinelli, £48 ; Sunderland, £20, 10S.

VALERIUS MAXIMUS. Moguntinae, per Petrum Schoyffer de Gernsheim, 1471, folio, first edition, with a date. Askew gave £4, 14s. 6d. for his copy, which sold at his sale for £26; Sunderland, £32. Another copy, printed on vellum, sold at the Sunderland sale for £194.

VIRGILIUS. Rome (Sweynheym et Pannartz), 1469 (?). Most valuable of all the first editions. Hopetoun House, 1889, slightly damaged and slightly wormed, £2000. The previous occasion on which a copy was sold was at the La Vallière sale, 1784, when an imperfect copy fetched 4101 francs.

Venet. Vindelin de Spira, 1470, folio, first edition with a date, printed on vellum. A copy sold for twenty-five guineas at Consul Smith's sale, 1773; Sunderland, £810. A copy on paper was sold in 1889. Hopetoun, £590.

Venet. in aedibus Aldi, 1501, 8vo, first Aldine edition, and the first book printed with the italic type invented by Aldus. Sunderland, £65 ; copy printed on vellum (Askew, L74, 11s.) now in the Althorpe library.


ARIOSTO. Orlando Furioso. Ferrara, 1516, with William Cecil's (Lord Burghley) autograph. Sunderland, 1881, £300.

Boccaccio. In the catalogue of the Sunderland library (1881) eight pages are devoted to the description of various editions of his works. One of these, " De la Ruine des Nobles Hommes et Femmes," Bruges Colard Mansion, 1476, realised £920. An imperfect copy of the celebrated first edition of the "Decameron" (C. Valdarfer, 1471) fetched £585. This was the copy possessed by Lord Blandford when he bought the complete Roxburghe copy. The imperfect copy was afterwards sold in the Lakelands sale (W. H. Crawford) for £230, and is now in the British Museum.

The latter book will always hold a high position in the annals of bibliography, from the fact that when a perfect copy in the Roxburghe library was sold in 1812, it was bought by the Marquis of Blandford after a hard struggle with Earl Spencer for £2260, the highest price ever paid for a book up to that date, and for many years afterwards. It had originally been added to the Roxburghe library at a cost of one hundred guineas. Seven years after-wards Messrs. Longman bought this same book at the White Knights sale for £918 for Lord Spencer.

DANTE. First edition of Landino's Commentary, Firenze, 1481; very large copy, with twenty rare engravings, purple morocco, by Lewis. Duke of Hamilton, 1884, £380.

W. H. Crawford, 1891, with the engravings by Bacio Baldini from designs of Botticelli, £360.

PETRARCA. I Triumphi. Venetia, per Bernardino da Novara, 1488, with two sets of six illustrations, one on metal and one on wood. Sunderland, 1882, £1950.

Second Aldine edition, printed on vellum, 1514. Hanrott, £73; Beckford, 1883, £66.

POLIPHILI Hypnerotomachia. Venetiis (Aldus), 1499. Sykes, part 2, beautiful copy, in yellow morocco by Roger Payne, L21; Watson Taylor (on vellum), £82, 19s.; Sir C. Price, £53, 10s.; Howell Wills, £30 ; Luke Price, £49 ; Beckford, 1883 (Crozat's copy, red morocco, richly tooled), £130 ; Duke of Hamilton, 1884, £80 ; Earl of Crawford, 1887, £86 ; W. H. Crawford (Lakelands), 1 891 (some of the woodcuts partially coloured, wanting leaf with imprint, £19; Earl of Ashburnham, 1897 (Emperor Charles V.'s copy, in stamped calf, with his figure in medallion), Z151.

Hypnerotomachie, 1561. [French translation.] F. Hockley, 1887, ZS; W. H. Crawford (Lakelands), 1891, £6, 10s. ; Earl of Ashburnham, 1897, £15.

A copy bound with "Le Roy, De la Vicissitude des Choses," 1577, in blue morocco, magnificently tooled by Nicolas Eve for Louise de Lorraine, realised £220 at the Beckford sale, 1897.

An English translation of the first book by R. D. was published in 1592, which is excessively scarce. Mr. Andrew Lang reprinted this in Mr. Nutt's Tudor Library, 1890, from the copy in the Bodleian Library. There is no copy in the British Museum, and in the introduction to his reprint Lang tells a story against himself. He bought at Toovey's a poor copy of this book for £1, but shortly afterwards he found that it wanted the last five pages, and exchanged it for "Les Mémoires de la Reine Marguerite," Paris, 1661, in yellow morocco. He regretted his exchange when he discovered its great rarity. M. Claude Popelin, who had long been lying in wait for this book, bought this copy at a London sale-room "à un de ces prix qu'on n'avoue pas a sa ménagère."

VIGILLES des Mors. Paris, par A. Verard, printed on vellum, with thirty miniatures finely illuminated in gold and colours, blue morocco by De Rome. This copy sold for 150 francs in the La Valliere sale, for 220 francs in the MacCarthy, and for £20 in Hibbert's. In the fourth portion of the Beckford library Mr. Quaritch bought it for £345.

TRISTAN. Chevalier de la Table Ronde. Two parts in one. Second edition, by Verard. Fine copy, with rough leaves, morocco super extra by Thouvenin. Duriez, 56o francs; same copy, Prince of Essling, 505 francs; same copy, Duke of Hamilton, 1884, L108.

AUGUSTINUS. De Civitate Dei. Venet. Nic. Jenson, on vellum, first page elaborately painted, and illuminated initials. Sunderland, 1881, L1000 bought by Mr. Quaritch amid shouts of applause.

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