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16 February 2011  |  Paris   |  PRINT  |  PDF
For Immediate Release

RELEASE: LA DESCRIPTION DE L’EGYPTE

THE MOST EXTRAVAGANT OFFICIAL PUBLISHING ENTREPRISE EVER ACCOMPLISHED LEADS CHRISTIE’S AUCTION OF BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS IN PARIS

BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS
The Michel Wittock collection – Part IV

Christie’s proudly announces the sale of the Michel Wittock Collection, Part IV, which will be held in Paris on May 11. As well as an exceptional copy of the famous Description de l’Egypte, bound by Jean-Joseph Tessier in polished and richly decorated calfskin, the collection includes a fine selection of French literature in master bindings from the late XIXth to the XXIst century, by or after design by Marius-Michel, Rose Adler, Pierre Legrain, François-Louis Schmied and Paul Bonet. Jean de Gonet is represented in a unique selection of more than 30 examples ranging from 1977 to 2006.

Collection Michel Wittock, Part IV
Jean-Joseph Tessier and the Description de l’Egypte

The highlight of the sale is the Description de l’Égypte, 23 volumes in their original mahogany display case, which is expected to realize €500.000 to €700.000. This is the first edition of this monumental publication, which is considered to be the foundation of modern Egyptology: a virtually complete set of the large paper issue, printed on woven paper with handcoloured ornithological plates. The Description de l’Egypte is the most extravagant official publishing enterprise ever accomplished. After his nomination to the command of the Egyptian campaign (1798-1801), Napoleon appointed a considerable staff of scientists, artists, architects and others, including eminent names such as Monge, Barraband, Redouté and Vivant-Denon, with a brief to undertake a comprehensive description of the country’s flora, fauna, monuments and architecture. The resulting mass of information was encapsulated in this seminal publication which began in 1803 but was not completed until 1830 - despite intervening changes of regime in France and elsewhere it was completed without interruption. The final work would include more than 900 engraved plates and is still arguably the most ambitious and sought-after work in the field of Egyptology.

The present copy is bound by the Parisian binder Jean-Joseph Tessier, a specialist in large format bindings who was recommended by the publisher: the binding is richly tooled in blind and gold, using tools specifically cut for the decoration of the Description de l’Égypte.

This copy belonged to Jean-Joseph Courvoisier (1775-1835). Exiled after the French Revolution, he returned to France in 1803 where he pursued a career in public administration and was eventually appointed minister of justice (8 August 1829 - 19 May 1830). A concomitant of Courvoisier’s nomination to the post was the gift of this lavish copy of the Description de l’Égypte, presented by the minister of the interior with the royal authority of Charles X.

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Auction : 11 May 2011 at 10:30am and 3pm
Public Exhibition : 7, 9, 10 May 2011
Christie’s Paris – 9 avenue Matignon 75008

Related Sale Sale 1057
Collection Michel Wittock: quatrième partie
11 May 2011
Paris


Related Departments Books & Manuscripts



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Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction and private sales in the first half of 2013 that totaled £2.4 billion/ $3.68 billion. In 2012, Christie’s had global auction and private sales that totaled £3.92 billion/$6.27 billion making it the highest annual total in Christie’s history. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War and Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Private sales totaled £465.2 million ($711.8 million) in the first half of 2013, an increase of 13% on the previous year, and for the third successive year represents the highest total for the period in both company and art market history.

Christie’s has a global presence with 53 offices in 32 countries and 12 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mumbai. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in growth markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

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