First full English translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy leads book sale, Jan. 25

First full English-language translation of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ estimated at $5,500-$7,000

First complete English-language translation of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ published in 1802 in London, estimated at $5,500-$7,000

NEW YORK – On Wednesday, January 25, starting at 7 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will present a sale dubbed 15th-19th Century Antique Books Collection. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

The January 25 edition of the ongoing series of sales bearing this title contains a whopping 850 lots of books. Featured are 16th-century publications of Julius Caesar’s Commentarii, his account of the Gallic Wars; a two-volume 1739 Italian-language version of Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso, published in Venice; books on science and military strategy; and a 1748 first edition on the thermal waters of Belgium and France that includes a chapter with the intriguing title “Indecency in the manner of taking the Baths and the Steaming Room, and of receiving the Douge at Plomberes.”

Handwritten works appear in the form of Alfonso Varano’s 64-page manuscript, dated 1760, for the opera John of Giscala, Tyrant of the Temple of Jerusalem; a circa-15th century antiphonal manuscript, a form of liturgical music that is performed alternately by two groups; and a World War II-era autograph book graced with 19 color and black-and-white drawings by an unidentified artist.

First edition of a 1555 volume of writings on surgery, estimated at $2,000-$2,500

First edition of a 1555 volume of writings on surgery, estimated at $2,000-$2,500

Also on offer are medical texts, such as a 1769 French-language treatise on the principles of surgery, and a two-volume textbook, also in French, dating to 1738-1740 on obstetrics that contains 32 engravings of surgical instruments, women, fetuses and the like.

This genre of subject matter is reflected by one of the three highlights chosen from this sale: a vellum-bound first edition of the third volume of a 1555 bibliography of writings on surgery by Biondo, Bolognini, Dondi, Ferri, Galen, Houllier, Langius, Maggi, Santo, Oribasius, and Tagault, among others. Printed in Latin, it has an estimate of $2,000-$2,500.

1529 Bible lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, estimated at $5,000-$6,000

1529 Bible lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, estimated at $5,000-$6,000

Any auction of antique books is (pardon the pun) bound to include several religious texts. Lurking among the books of common prayer, tales of saints, Bibles, and unstinting fulminations against heretics is a Latin-language Bible from 1529 that contains a six-part woodcut depicting the Creation at the beginning of Genesis; a half-page woodcut of King Solomon at the start of the book of Proverbs; a full-page woodcut of the Nativity before the New Testament; and 121 other small woodcuts throughout the text. Its estimate is $5,000-$6,000.

The final highlight is the first full English translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, printed in three volumes in London in 1802. Henry Boyd achieved the feat of rendering Dante’s words in English in the form of rhymed six-line stanzas. The set features an engraved frontispiece of the Italian poet and carries an estimate of $5,500-$7,000.


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