This time, the catalogue is divided into two sections and provides impressive insight into the various lots.
More than half of the catalogue is devoted to the magnificent collection of books assembled by the brothers and diplomats Gustaf and Ulric Celsing. Known as the 'manor library' at Biby, Södermanland, the collection was built up by the owners during the 1700s. The books that Stockholms Auktionsverk has been given the honour of selling cover large sections of this famous library and include works on a wide variety of subjects. The areas of emphasis in the collection include history, economics and – for obvious reasons – diplomacy.
The collection, which has remained untouched in a charming room adjoining the Turkish lounge at Biby Manor for more than a century, was put together many years previously. The library was actually assembled during the 1700s by the manor owners Gustaf Celsing (1723–1789) and Ulric Celsing (1731–1805). It was the younger of the brothers who had the collection transformed into an entailed estate library. Both brothers represented Sweden at the Sublime Porte in Turkey in 1745–1779 and, during this long period, put together a unique collection of paintings, manuscripts and other items.
The collection of books testifies to the diversity and the broad scope of interest the diplomats possessed. Worthy of particular note is an impressive work about the Westphalian Peace, Acta Pacis Westphalicae publica from 1734, as well as Dumont's Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens printed in Haag-Amsterdam in 1726, and a splendid volume about the Herculaneum excavations, Le antichita di Ercolano eposte, which was published in Naples in the 1750s.
Most of the books are in very good condition, still in their original beautiful bindings. These include, for example, gold-embossed leather covers, parchment bindings, or grey-paper covers with a very special texture – which were used for books delivered fresh from the printers.
The collection naturally contains standard reference works and overviews, bibles and books of psalms, leisure reading, books on estate housekeeping and other works that belong in any manor library. In addition, however, it features a 'civil service section' where the emphasis is very much on international history, geography, political science and economics – as well as a comprehensive section devoted to diplomatic text books. Texts in this last area include instructions for diplomats, descriptions of diplomatic commissions, collections of published diplomatic correspondence, overviews of specific peace negotiations and, in particular, collections of peace and trade treaties and other international agreements.
It is likely that most of these books had graced the shelves in the brothers' home in Constantinople, and that the majority were acquired overseas. The international character of this part of the collection is truly amazing. Books in every imaginable language stood side by side on the shelves. Latin and French were the predominant languages, but there were plenty of works in German, Italian and English as well.
The ambassadors used their library to stay well informed about international history, economics and politics, and to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest ideas flowing through the western world.
The collection contains no fewer than three editions of Pufendorf's richly illustrated feats of King Karl X Gustav, as well as classics such as Erik Dahlberg's Suecia, Antiqua et Hodierna in a beautiful presentation cover.
In addition to books, the collection includes two magnificent, large-format views of Rome and Venice, which also once hung on the walls at Biby Manor.
The entailed estate library at Biby presents an image of a noble family in the 1700s: a family with impressive international outlook and presence, and a family that subsequently returned home to immerse itself in Swedish history in the comfort of its newly acquired country estate. The library, like other sections of the main building at Biby, constituted a delicious blend of Swedish and international.
Partly processed text from the book Biby: Ett fideikommiss berättar (Stockholm 2014), article written by Mats Rehnström.
One of the highlights of the second part of the catalogue is the impressive and richly illustrated work devoted to Dutch towns and cities, written by the famous Dutch cartographers Willem and Joan Blaeu, and dating from 1649.
The section begins with a poem in praise of Gustav III in 46 different languages, a work about England's first printer – William Caxton – with an original leaf from The Canterbury Tales dated 1478, several versions of Johannes and Olaus Magnus' magnificent history of the Nordic region – both first editions and the Basle edition with a large map of the Nordic region, as well as our first bible in Swedish: Gustav Vasa's bible from 1540–41.
There are many other tempting items as well. These include a royal binding from Ludvig XIV, original editions of works by Goethe, Mayakovsky and Sandemose, and several volumes published by the Kelmscott Press, including an 1893 edition of Thomas More's Utopia.
In the field of art history, the lots include an early work about Leon Bakst, one of the leading figures in Russian Ballet – richly illustrated with pictures of his beautiful stagings – several interesting and comprehensive books about Islamic art, an etching by Käthe Kollwitz that is included in Die graphischen Künste, and Picasso: Toreros with four original lithographs.
The catalogue also features numerous works from the library of antiquarian book seller Björn Löwendahl, whose life was cut tragically short. This is a collection from which we will surely be selling other works in the future. His specialist areas included China and other countries in Asia, and his collection features several unusual works about India, Vietnam, Java and even Russia, such as a first edition of de Argensolas – about the Maluku Islands – Cordiner's A description of Ceylon printed in 1807 and the Spaniard Navarette's book on China from 1676. There is also an unusual anthology of travel descriptions from the late 1600s, as well as a copy of the famous Swedish Act of 1734 from the Royal Castle binding.
Other parts of the world are also worth discovering, of course, and we are delighted to present a first edition of the record of the noted adventurer James Cook's famous second expedition A voyage towards the South Pole, Dahlman's classic about our Swedish colony, Beskrifning om S. Barthelemy, Ekeberg's description of his East Indian voyage in 1773, along with Niebuhr's richly illustrated work about Arabia.
There are numerous decorative and interesting books to be found among the volumes of prints on offer, including several portraits of authors in what is known as woodburytype (named after the process used by famous photographers such as Nadar), Suecia Antiqua in an extraordinary binding from the 1800s, William Hogarth's satirical etchings in elephant folio size, and a work from the early 1700s devoted to the ruins of Rome.
The map section is packed with delights, including maps of the world by both Ortelius and Blaeu, Hondius' map of the world from 1630 showing the 'four continents', several excellent large-format maps by Jailliot – including one of the Ottoman Empire – and the classic Map of Scandinavia by Ortelius from 1573.
From the Löwendahl collections, there are a number of interesting works in the field of natural sciences: Burmann's Flora Indica and Thesaurus Zeylanicus, as well as Flora Zeylanica by Linnaeus, for example. Other important volumes in this section include Sowerby's English Botany, which contains almost 3,000 beautiful plates.
The numerous interesting documents, letters and manuscripts on offer comprise a number of extremely unusual documents: there are several from the Vasa clan including examples from Gustav Vasa's two wives: Katarina of Sachsen Lauenburg and Margareta Eriksdotter. From the same lineage, there are a number of documents signed by Erik XIV, by his wife, Karin Månsdotter, by their son Gustaf, and by Queen Kristina – written after her abdication. Moreover, the collection features a handwritten letter penned by Hedvig Eleonora. There are also drafts of two articles by August Strindberg in which he fiercely attacks the Swedish Academy on the subject of the Nobel Prize and a number of letters from Alfred Nobel himself.
Towards the end of the catalogue, there are several Arabic documents, a beautiful Swedish law manuscript from the 1500s, photographs from the submarine Hvalen's voyage of 1909, and a share certificate from Porla Well dated 1826.
Browse the printed catalogue here
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Viewing 12-15 December
Auction 16 December