• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7806

    Lord St. Helens and Sir William FitzHerbert The Collections of a Diplomat and a Courtier

    22 January 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 590

    BORN, Ignaz Edler von (1742-1791). Testacea musei Caesarei Vindobonensis quae jussu Mariae Theresiae Augustae disposuit et descripsit Ignatius a Born. Vienna: Johann Paul Kraus, 1780. 2° (410 x 280mm). Dedication to the Empress Marie-Therese, title and dedication with emblematic engraved vignettes by C. Schütz together with 3 headpieces and 8 tailpieces by the same, 2 woodcut tailpieces, 36 engravings in the text of shells, all by Schütz, C. Conti and others, 18 fine hand-coloured engraved plates of shells by Schütz or J. Adam after Fr. Fuxeder. EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED WITH 69 SUPERB WATERCOLOURS OF SHELLS on 36 sheets of wove paper, 3 of which watermarked 'J. Whatman', all the engravings and illustrations with annotation in a near contemporary hand, usually in pencil, although a few are in ink, two of the watercolours with notes in English ('From Grand Duke's sett' and 'Golden-mouth'). (Lacking half-title, occasional very light dust soiling.) Early 19th Century diced russia, marbled endpapers (covers detached, extremities rubbed, corners worn). Provenance: Alleyne FitzHerbert, Baron St. Helens (19th century engraved armorial bookplate and small stamp to title).

    FIRST AND ONLY EDITION OF THIS SUMPTUOUS WORK ON THE SHELLS FROM THE COLLECTION OF MARIA THERESA, Empress of Austria (1717-1780). In 1778 Born published a taxonomic description of the shell collection by her express command. This contained one plate only, and was swiftly followed two years later by the present work. 'The collection, now in the Natural History Museum of Vienna, is of great importance to systematists as Born described from it a number of species new to science' (Dance, p.94).

    Alleyne FitzHerbert, Baron St. Helens (1753-1839), was a diplomat involved in a number of important treaty negotiations between Britain and her European neighbours. This included two postings to Russia, the first to the court of Catherine the Great 1783-1787, and the second, 1801-1802, to St. Petersburg in the aftermath of the accession of Alexander I. During this second posting, he was raised to the United Kingdom peerage, becoming Baron St. Helens of St. Helens. Although impossible to state with any accuracy, it might be that the watercolours date from this time. On 16 July 1797, a fire at St. Helens' London home destroyed all his possessions, and the bookplate and binding of the present work date from the early 19th Century. Russia had a great tradition of shell collecting; Peter the Great bought several important natural history cabinets, including those of the two great Dutch collectors, Albertus Seba (1665-1736) and Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731), both of whom were enthusiastic shell collectors. These were later to form the basis of the collections of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It is tempting to link the English note on one of the watercolours, 'From the Grand Duke's sett', with one of the Russian Grand Dukes' collections. St. Helens returned to Britain in 1802, retiring from diplomatic duties. Since shell collections are fragile and difficult to move, it is more than likely that the watercolours are representations of shells in an unidentified Russian collection. BM(NH) I 202; Nissen ZBI 470; Dance 36.

    Price Realised  

    BORN, Ignaz Edler von (1742-1791). Testacea musei Caesarei Vindobonensis quae jussu Mariae Theresiae Augustae disposuit et descripsit Ignatius a Born. Vienna: Johann Paul Kraus, 1780. 2° (410 x 280mm). Dedication to the Empress Marie-Therese, title and dedication with emblematic engraved vignettes by C. Schütz together with 3 headpieces and 8 tailpieces by the same, 2 woodcut tailpieces, 36 engravings in the text of shells, all by Schütz, C. Conti and others, 18 fine hand-coloured engraved plates of shells by Schütz or J. Adam after Fr. Fuxeder. EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED WITH 69 SUPERB WATERCOLOURS OF SHELLS on 36 sheets of wove paper, 3 of which watermarked 'J. Whatman', all the engravings and illustrations with annotation in a near contemporary hand, usually in pencil, although a few are in ink, two of the watercolours with notes in English ('From Grand Duke's sett' and 'Golden-mouth'). (Lacking half-title, occasional very light dust soiling.) Early 19th Century diced russia, marbled endpapers (covers detached, extremities rubbed, corners worn). Provenance: Alleyne FitzHerbert, Baron St. Helens (19th century engraved armorial bookplate and small stamp to title).

    FIRST AND ONLY EDITION OF THIS SUMPTUOUS WORK ON THE SHELLS FROM THE COLLECTION OF MARIA THERESA, Empress of Austria (1717-1780). In 1778 Born published a taxonomic description of the shell collection by her express command. This contained one plate only, and was swiftly followed two years later by the present work. 'The collection, now in the Natural History Museum of Vienna, is of great importance to systematists as Born described from it a number of species new to science' (Dance, p.94).

    Alleyne FitzHerbert, Baron St. Helens (1753-1839), was a diplomat involved in a number of important treaty negotiations between Britain and her European neighbours. This included two postings to Russia, the first to the court of Catherine the Great 1783-1787, and the second, 1801-1802, to St. Petersburg in the aftermath of the accession of Alexander I. During this second posting, he was raised to the United Kingdom peerage, becoming Baron St. Helens of St. Helens. Although impossible to state with any accuracy, it might be that the watercolours date from this time. On 16 July 1797, a fire at St. Helens' London home destroyed all his possessions, and the bookplate and binding of the present work date from the early 19th Century. Russia had a great tradition of shell collecting; Peter the Great bought several important natural history cabinets, including those of the two great Dutch collectors, Albertus Seba (1665-1736) and Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731), both of whom were enthusiastic shell collectors. These were later to form the basis of the collections of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It is tempting to link the English note on one of the watercolours, 'From the Grand Duke's sett', with one of the Russian Grand Dukes' collections. St. Helens returned to Britain in 1802, retiring from diplomatic duties. Since shell collections are fragile and difficult to move, it is more than likely that the watercolours are representations of shells in an unidentified Russian collection. BM(NH) I 202; Nissen ZBI 470; Dance 36.


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the loosely inserted illustrations of shells are highly finished hand-coloured plates with etched backgrounds, as opposed to watercolours as stated in the catalogue. These are from Thomas Martyn's Universal Conchologist, 1784-89. The estimate has therefore been reduced to £8,000 - 10,000.