The Rothschild Prayerbook set for record $18m auction with Christie's

The Rothschild Prayerbook, an incredibly important illuminated manuscript, will be sold through Christie's on January 29 in New York.

Rothschild Prayerbook Auction
The Rothschild Prayerbook looks set to improve on its own record price

The book, a masterpiece of Renaissance art, holds the auction record for an illuminated manuscript, having sold for $13.3m at Christie's sale of the Collection of the Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild - members of the Rothschild dynasty, in 1999.

It is now estimated to sell for between $12m and 18m.

The work is described by the auction house as "one of the highest achievements of Flemish Renaissance painting with 150 pages and miniatures and borders of superlative quality".

It was created by Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening and the "Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximilian I" (probably Alexander Bening, Simon's father). One of the miniatures included within its pages has been attributed to the painter Gerard David, who is renowned for his wonderful use of colour.

A Book of Hours, The Rothschild Prayerbook is one of a group of manuscripts produced for the Habsburg court in the Netherlands around 1490-1520. It is similar to another example in the British Library, as well as the Spinola Hours in the J Paul Getty Museum in California, and the Grimani Breviary in Venice.

"Every aspect of this Book of Hours - from the quality of the parchment to the wealth and refinement of the decoration - marks the Rothschild Prayerbook as one of the most prestigious and exquisite examples of Flemish manuscript illumination," commented co-chairman of old masters and 19th century art at Christie's, Nicholas Hall.

The record for any book sold at auction is held by Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Leicester, which was bought by Bill Gates at Christie's in 1994 for $30.8m.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has some remarkable historical manuscripts for sale.

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