Belt (1893-1980) was a renowned surgeon and noted bibliophile. An early member of Southern California’s bibliophile society, the Zamorano Club, and the fifth recipient of the Sir Thomas More Medal for Book Collecting, Belt was passionate book collector. The fruits of this passion can still be evidenced today in the Elmer Belt Florence Nightingale Collection and the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana (a special collection of books and materials concerning Leonardo da Vinci and the Italian Renaissance), both donated to UCLA, and the Upton Sinclair Collection: From the Library of Dr. and Mrs. Elmer Belt, which was donated to Occidental College.
The volumes being offered by PBA Galleries have remained in the Belt family since the doctor’s death in 1980 and reflect his wide range of interests. From the first significant scientific work printed in England to the fine printing of the Kelmscott, Ashendene and Grabhorn Presses, to the works of Sir Winston Churchill and William Faulkner, Belt’s refined collecting taste is evident throughout. Also to be included are a small group of California paintings from Belt’s home.
Among the highlights of the Belt collection is the account of the voyages of the HMS Beagle, which introduced Charles Darwin to the marvelous and varied botanical and zoological life of the Pacific Ocean, Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of his Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle. The three volumes plus an appendix to volume 2 is inscribed by the captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitzroy, to Dr. John Lee, the English philanthropist, astronomer, mathematician, antiquarian and barrister. This is a first edition, first issue set and includes Volume III which is Darwin’s own account of the voyage (estimate: $30,000-$50,000).
A fine illuminated manuscript of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Blessed Damozel from the pen of the calligraphic master Alberto Sangorski with a magnificent miniature painting after Rossetti. The manuscript is superbly bound by master bookbinders Riviere & Son of London (estimate: $20,000-$30,000).
Reflecting Belt’s scientific interests is a fine copy of the first edition of the William Gilbert’s groundbreaking work on magnetism De magnete, magneticisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure… Published in London in 1600, Gilbert’s treatise represents the first major English scientific work based on experimental methods of research (estimate: $25,000-$35,000).
Belt’s love of the finely printed book is shown in books from the fine presses of the Kelmscott, Ashendene and Grabhorn Presses including a fine copy of Caxton’s translation of The History of Reynard the Foxe printed at William Morris’ Kelmscott Press (estimate: $4,000-$6,000) and a number of volumes from the Ashendene press of Charles Henry St John Hornby including Thucydide’s History of the Peloponnesian War printed in an edition of only 280 copies (estimate $3,000-$5,000).
Bringing together Belt’s love of the beautiful and finely printed book and his interest in the scientific is the 1973 Lion and Unicorn Press edition of Captain Cook’s Florilegium with 30 stunning full-page engraved plates printed from the original 18th century copper plates made from drawings taken during Cook’s first voyage. Limited to only 100 copies, this being copy number 3, subscribed from the press by Belt (estimate $15,000-$20,000).
The sale will begin at 11 a.m. Pacific Time. For more information, please contact PBA Galleries at 415-989-2665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
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