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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bloomsbury Maps & Atlases Sale on 27th March 2008

Bloomsbury Auctions Offers the World’s Rarest Star Atlas to the Smallest Atlas Known Which was Made for Queen Mary’s Doll’s House

The 418 lot sale boasts several highly important items. The very rare Atlas Celeste or Celestial Atlas (lot 7) by the astronomer and physician John Bevis, is one of only 16 known and the recently discovered, privately owned copy offered by Bloomsbury, is regarded by experts as being on a par with the best in the world at the Manchester Astronomical Society Library and better than the copy at the British Library. Kevin Kilburn, Secretary, the Society of Astronomy says, ‘The Atlas Celeste is the unpublished core of Dr John Bevis’s Uranographia Britannica, the great British star atlas intended for publication in about 1750 but whose copper plates were sequestered by the London Courts of Chancery when it’s publisher, John Neale was declared bankrupt. In 1786 an anonymous seller offered Atlas Celeste for sale. It is perhaps, the rarest of the great classical star atlases from the ‘golden age’ of astronomical cartography, from circa 1600 to1800.’

This magnificent work has an engraved allegorical frontispiece depicting Urania presenting a volume on astronomy to Frederick Prince of Wales, with the Greenwich Observatory in the background. Dated 1786 only the Manchester and Bloomsbury copies contain the explanatory title or advertising broadsheet which reads: ‘The expence of the Engravings was immense as the most Capital Artists in Europe were employed in executing them…Many of the Copies have been destroyed by Fire and Removals: the few that remain are now offered at One Guinea and a Half each Set….The Copies saved are all of the first Impression, and will be an Ornament to any Library, and highly worthy the Notice and Patronage of every Lover of the Sciences.’ Expected to fetch £12000-18000 this important item will be hotly contested by connoisseurs and institutions as well as specialist dealers.

The set of extremely scarce 24 Globe Gores with 2 Polar calottes by Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (Venice, 1696) will also cause a stir (lot 11). Rodney W Shirley, the authority on world maps, noted: ‘The engraving and design throughout is of the highest standard with neat contras, ting lettering and five large cartouches of singular grace and elegance…Coronelli seems to have sought to omit nothing that might be of interest to geographers, navigators and explorers.’ Decorated with cartouches of classical and allegorical figures, including Coronelli’s portrait as well as numerous galleons, sea nymphs, whales and land animals this handsome lot is estimated at £25000-30000.

In complete contrast to the heavy-weights mentioned, Bloomsbury’s sale also encompasses a copy of the miniature Atlas of the British Empire by Edward Stanford, made for Her Majesty Queen Mary’s doll’s house (lot 37). It contains 12 double-page maps which including the world, the British Isles and various regions of the empire. According to Louise W Bondy, the authority on miniature books, ‘this rare volume is the smallest atlas in existence.’ Dated 1928 it is modestly estimated at £200-300.