SAN FRANCISCO – Turner Auctions + Appraisals is pleased to present the Holbrook T. Mitchell Collection of Books & Manuscripts on January 29. Drawn from the estate of a Northern California collector, the auction features 85 lots of antique or vintage written works in various languages from the 14th-20th centuries. Highlights include an illuminated 19th-century Persian Qu’ran (Koran) in Arabic; a book from the library of Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the second wife of Napoleon; a 1781 copy of Cook’s Voyages Around the World by G. W. Anderson; 11 Egyptian papyrus fragments, likely all from a single leaf; and an 1885 first edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Of particular note in this auction is the Book of Hours (Horae), an illuminated manuscript in Latin from the 15th or 16th centuries. Popular in the Middle Ages and produced initially by scribes in monasteries, books of hours were created to assist the daily devotions of Christian monks, nuns and laymen. They contained sets of prayers, usually in Latin, which were to be recited during the eight canonical hours. These books, each unique, were often designed with great visual appeal, with leading artists paid by wealthy patrons to create opulent illustrations that encouraged reflection and piety.
The manuscript in the auction comprises 34 illuminated vellum leaves, which include 11 large and eight smaller miniatures, with illuminated initials throughout, in gold, red and blue. The larger miniatures are in rectangular-framed compartments, and the smaller miniatures are in square-framed compartments. The text is rendered in dark brown ink in a gothic liturgical hand, with rubrics in red. It carries an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Other highlights of the sale include the aforementioned 1781 copy of Cook’s Voyages Around the World by George William Anderson, notable for providing an account of Captain Cook’s first, second, third and final voyage. It has retained its frontispiece engraved portrait of Cook and its front fold-out map, and all further engraved plans, views, maps, and illustrations of peoples and artifacts throughout appear to be present. It is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Not to be missed is a set of 11 Egyptian papyrus fragments, likely all from a single leaf, lettered and drawn in black. At least two sets of three fragments appear to match up, and at least 19 columns of hieroglyphics are represented. Elements of two figures are present, including two winged figures, and one with a bird headpiece. The set is estimated at $5,000-$7,000.
Equally worthy of mention is a circa-19th-century illuminated Persian Qu’ran, printed in Arabic. It contains more than 250 illuminated leaves and approximately 38 floral embellishments at margins throughout. The final two pages are fully illuminated, with vining florals in red, blue and green. Its estimate is $2,000-$3,000.
Rounding out the highlights is a group of eight illuminated choir book vellum leaves from large choir books. The leaves have been rolled together and hold a rolled form. Every leaf has one or more large, illuminated initials, and two to three styles appear to be represented. One leaf has a figural illustration. They are all in generally good condition, and carry a collective estimate of $600-$800.
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