Explorer's work sails past estimate to sell for $650k

Three works by explorer Samuel De Champlain has all exceeded expectations at Bloomsbury Auctions' pre-1625 sale in New York. They were amongst several high end books and maps which did well at an auction where bidders turned up in an eager mood.

Of the lots we focussed on, Jan Linschoten's Itinerario sold on target at $120,000, as did Bernhard von Breydenbach's descriptions of pilgrimage through the Holy Land at $90,000 whilst Hartmann Schedel's history of the world hit its top estimate of $150,000.

A surprise in the sale was Bishop Bartolomé de Las Casas's Complete Set of the Indian Tracts in two volumes and very good condition. Few of the Indian Tracts, even as individuals, exist in a reasonable state, so it is a genuine rarity.

Las Casas Indian Tracts
Las Casas's Indian Tracts

Valued as low as $30,000 it more than tripled this to sell for $11,000 after an extended period of lively bidding.

But there's no question that the auction belonged to de Champlain.

Three texts from the great man went under the hammer: his account of his 1615 exploration of the New France was estimated at $30,000-50,000.

De Champlain New France book
De Champlain's journey to 'New France'
(Click to see inside)

Written largely at sea in 1618 and covering Champlain's travels of 1615-16, this is the third narrative of his voyages, with much information relevant to the Indians and topography in New York. The beautiful green book sold for $62,000.

De Champlain's 1629 exploration of Canada was available in the first collected edition of his works had naturally provoked a great deal of interest especially from French Canadians, and this doubled its expected sale price of $70,000-100,000 to be taken at $160,000.

But of course it was the earliest work, describing de Champlain's first four explorations of the New World including early mapping, descriptions of Iroquois and natural history which was expected to be top lot, and so it was.

Expected to sell for $250,000-350,000, the book caught the attentions of two bidders determined to gain this piece of unique Americana, and they forced the price all the way up to an extraordinary hammer price of $650,000.

Proof, if proof were needed, of the very high value collectors place on well-preserved historical texts.


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