London – Christie’s is honoured to announce the auction of scientific and medical books from the Royal Institution of Great Britain (Ri) to take place on 1 December. The sale comprises a choice selection of 90 lots, which are being sold to enable the Ri to continue its vital work for the benefit of future generations. Proceeds of the sale will reinforce the charity’s mission in providing science education and heritage activities for people of all ages and backgrounds across the UK and around the world.

The auction presents an opportunity to acquire scientific and medical works spanning the 16th to 19th centuries and coming on the market for the first time in up to two centuries. The selection presents works highly desirable not only for their important subject matter - often ground-breaking works in medicine, science or natural history - but also for their distinguished history associated with the Ri, with some books presented to the Ri by earlier generations of scientists. Estimates range from £800 to 5,000, with highlights ranging from £20,000 to 140,000. The top lot of the sale is a fine copy of the first edition of Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (estimate: £140,000-220,000, illustrated above). The Fabrica is widely considered the most influential medical book of all time, forever changing our understanding of human anatomy and dividing medical science between pre- and post-Vesalian knowledge. The work is also considered the most beautiful medical book ever published. The Ri copy has distinguished provenance from a contemporary of Vesalius - Alberto Lollio, a noted literary figure in Renaissance Ferrara - and, subsequently, two medical doctors: Gennaro Giannelli, a Neapolitan doctor of the first half of the 18th century, and Martin Tupper, physician to the Duke of Wellington.

Other books being offered include a highly attractive set of the hermetic works of Robert Fludd (1547-1637), uniformly bound in vellum and richly illustrated with engravings by de Bry, Merian, and the author himself. It is very rare to find a copy of this work complete (estimate: £18,000-25,000, illustrated right).

Another highlight is Francis Godwin’s (1562-1633) The Man in the Moone (estimate: £7,000-10,000, illustrated left). This is a first edition of one of the earliest works in English devoted to space travel and highlights Godwin’s utopian fantasy and the developments in astronomy at the time, as he mentions Copernicus by name, and draws on the theories of Kepler, Galileo and Gilbert. We are delighted to offer the exceptionally rare geological sections by William Smith (1769-1839) (estimate: £30,000-50,000, illustrated below). This spectacular lot represents a major contribution to the science of geology and in the past 50 years only two copies of the London-Snowdon section have sold at auction.

Margaret Ford, International Head of Books and Manuscripts, Christie’s: “Christie's is honoured to work with the Ri to offer these highly desirable books. It has been exciting to work closely with such important and interesting books and gratifying to enable a new generation of collectors to engage with the history of science and medicine.”


Friday 27 November 9.00 am - 4.30 pm

Saturday 28 November 12 noon - 5.00 pm

Sunday 29 November 12 noon - 5.00 pm

Monday 30 November 9.00 am - 4.30 pm



Tuesday 1 December 2015

to follow the Books and Manuscripts Auction

8 King Street, St. James’s

London SW1Y 6QT


About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction and private sales in 2014 that totalled £5.1 billion / $8.4 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 around 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 & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Private sales totalled £916.1 million ($1.5 billion). 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, New Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai.


About the Royal Institution of Great Britain

The Royal Institution of Great Britain (Ri) was founded in March 1799 and its purpose has always been to encourage people to think more deeply about the wonders and applications of science. Home to eminent scientists such as Michael Faraday, Humphry Davy and Dorothy Hodgkin, its discoveries have helped to shape the modern world and two centuries on it remains at the forefront of public engagement with science. Today it continues its mission as a registered charity providing science education and heritage activities for people of all ages and backgrounds across the UK and around the world. These activities include the world-famous CHRISTMAS LECTURES; public talks from the world's greatest thinkers in its historic lecture theatre; a national programme of Masterclasses for young people in mathematics, engineering and computer science; hands-on science workshops in its Young Scientist Centre; animations and films from its award-winning Ri Channel and the preservation of its scientific legacy through the Michael Faraday Museum and Archival Collections.



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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.

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). Christie's is also recognised as a reference for prestigious single owner collections, having auctioned 8 of the 10 most important collections in history.

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Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

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