£45k Mattioli leads sale of books that influenced a generation

Bonham's yesterday held a remarkable book sale consigned by a man from whom, it is said, a whole generation of antiquarian booksellers learnt their trade.

The renowned bookseller Richard Hatchwell amassed a significant and definitive book collection including incunabula, early continental books and important scientific works.

Hatchwell's collection is noted for having previously attracted a "who's who" of prestigious buyers, including Siegfried Sassoon, John Betjeman, Bertrand Russell, A.L. Rowse and Lord and Lady Eccles.

Successful lots included the sale of "Commentarii in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de medica materia" (first published in 1554) by the renowned Italian professor of philosophy and medicine, Mattiolo Mattioli, for £45,000.

The Mattioli copy was a rare and hand-coloured example of the hugely influential botanical work, once owned by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, the famous 16th century Nuremberg herbalist.

The second highest selling lot was 17th century theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet's "Grands oraisons funèbres", a complete set of 6 works bound with 11 others in two volumes, for £40,000.

Predicted highlights of the sale included a first edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language: in Which the Words are Deduced from their Originals.

The book, of which it was once said "nothing within measurable distance of it, had hithero appeared... it remained for a century the unrivalled authority in the English language," surpassed its lower £7,000 estimate, bringing £7,800.

Another remarkable lot was a first edition, first issue of the legendary physicist Isaac Newton's Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light.

Estimated at £15,000-20,000, the historic item sold for a bargain £16,800.

The auction also featured the most celebrated legal document in the English speaking world: a large fine engraved facsimile of the original text of the Magna Carta.

The document nearly doubled its £2,000 estimate, finally selling for £3,840.

Other highlights included a collection of manuscripts relating to the early trading ventures of Benedict Arnold, the American Revolution General who famously switched sides to the British Empire during the Revolution.

It sold for £9,600, beyond its lower £8,000 estimate.

The sale was held at Bonham's, New Bond Street in London.


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