Event Date12 July 10:30 AM BST | Live auction 21952

Valuable Books and Manuscripts

Valuable Books and Manuscripts

Sale Overview

Christie’s London sale of Valuable Books and Manuscripts is equally strong on visual delights and documents of turning points in human history. Science and intellectual history are represented by corrected proofs by Charles Darwin for a work on insectivorous plants, a 13th-century manuscript of Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica, and books and autographs by Einstein, Descartes, Huygens, Galileo, Kepler and Brahe. Political history is documented in an autograph letter by Karl Marx to his French publisher and a memorandum annotated by Winston Churchill on Palestine, while literary history features in letters from J.R.R. Tolkien, including one lamenting the poor critical reception of his poetry. Artistic highlights include a series of lavishly-illustrated Books of Hours alongside decorated codices from Ethiopia, Armenia and Siam, and illuminated leaves from the collection of Alfred and Felicie Scharf; the illustrated printed books range from Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s depictions of Empress Josephine’s gardens at Malmaison, published by Étienne-Pierre Ventenat in 1803, to Marc Chagall’s illustrations for Homer’s Odyssey, printed in 1975.

Auction times
12 Jul 10:30 AM (BST)

Our specialist’s selection

Brought to you by

Thomas Venning

Thomas Venning

Head of Department | Books & Manuscripts

Thomas Venning has been Christie’s lead specialist for autographs and archives since 1998, and Head of Books & Manuscripts in London since 2014.

As specialist and head of department, he has overseen many high-profile sales: one early favourite was The Albin Schram Collection of Autograph Letters (July 2007), described in 100-point type by one newspaper as ‘the greatest letters ever written’; but his favourite single lot is undoubtedly the wonderful autograph of J.S. Bach’s prelude, fugue and allegro for lute, BWV 998, which sold for just over £2.5m in July 2016. In recent years he has developed a fascination for the life and works of Albert Einstein, sealed when he sold Einstein’s iconic leather jacket in July 2016 (£110,500); and in 2017 he launched a series of online sales of the extraordinary correspondence between Einstein and his closest friend, Michele Besso. Building on the succss of these sales, he has developed an ongoing online auction series under the title On the Shoulders of Giants, devoted to letters, offprints and association objects by the great scientists from Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Thomas is one of the UK’s leading specialists in the valuation and sale of archives: notable sales have included the original manuscripts for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the ‘A’ manuscript of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the archives of prime ministers and politicians including George Canning and Edward Heath, and papers of soldiers, scientists, industrialists and opera companies, as well as many family and estate archives. He has a particular expertise in the Acceptance In Lieu process.

A graduate of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Thomas speaks fluent English and French. His interest in Anglo-French cultural exchange is reflected by his work as Chair of the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation.

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