$150,000 colour copy of a 'scenic journey around the world' appears at Bonhams

As we've reported, Bonhams' upcoming sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts this month has some outstanding works marking breakthroughs in the mathematics and science.

These include an early printed copy of Elementa Geometriae by Euclid, (the original work dated to around 300BC, but this early printed work was translated and then made in 1482) and a set of papers related to Watson and Crick'sdiscovery of the double-helical nature of DNA.

(For those who can't wait, the signature of another pioneering scientist, Albert Einstein, is also available, away from the sale.)

However, more valuable than either of these is a work by Louis Choris (1795-1828): Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, avec des portraits de sauvages d'Amérique, d'Asie, d'Afrique, et des iles du Grand Ocean; des paysages, des vues maritimes, et plusieurs objets d'histoire naturelle

This translates as 'Scenic journey around the world, with portraits of wild America, Asia, Africa and the Great Ocean islands, landscapes, marine views, and many objects of natural history.'

Previously the property of an East Coast collector, this is a very rare fully coloured copy of this "elaborately handsome work by the artist with Kotzebue's 1816 expedition in which a long visit was made to the Pacific coast from California to Bering's sea" (Howes).

The work was issued in 22 livraisons between 1820 and 1822 or 1823. Two title pages were printed, one dated 1820 and the other dated 1822, but according to Forbes there was only one issue of the text and plates.

A lithographed portrait of the artist is occasionally found, but is not called for in the list of plates. The work was available with every plate coloured (as here), some coloured, or none coloured. Two plates have been noted in variant states: in the present copy, Kamehameha's portrait shows him in a dark robe, and the view of the Sandwich Islands dancers includes Choris and a verdant background.

Louis Choris book

Choris' work is in essence an album of illustrations, the text giving just the key facts of the voyage and explanations of the plates. The lithographs range from scenes of native life to topography, ethnography, natural history, and artifacts.

Twelve plates relate to California, nineteen to the Hawaiian Islands, and twenty-three are of Alaskan interest. The Philippines, Chile and Easter Island also feature in the work, which will sell in Bonhams auction which takes place on February 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California, USA.


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