Books, books, books..

A bit of a cultural interlude, since it’s World Book Day [isn’t every day? – Ed]. Some very old books are coming up for auction at Sotheby’s and there are some fascinating lots in the catalogue [free reg req]. The Guardian focuses on the biggie.. Lot 3272 – The first printed atlas of England and Wales, by Christopher Saxton, commissioned for Elizabeth I’s treasurer, and chief advisor, William Cecil – auction estimate £500,000 – £700,000. Catalogue details here [free reg].. and detail from another copy here. But there are other gems from the Macclesfield library collection for sale..There’s this gem – Lot 3236

An historical and geographical description of the great country and river of the Amazones in America.. with a mapp of the river and its provinces, being that place which Sir Walter Raleigh intended to conquer and plant, when he made his voyage to Guiana… translated into English by William Hamilton. London: John Starkey 1661

And Lot 3277, The Model of the Government of the Province of east-New Jersey in America, 1685, by George Scot [free reg]

first edition, second issue, of this most influential and extremely rare work, aimed at encouraging Scottish emigration to East New Jersey. In addition to Scot’s own utopian tractate, it contains numerous letters from the early settlers detailing the ebb and flow of their new lives.

Scot’s reward for his literary efforts was a grant of 500 acres in the territory. Aboard the “Henry and Francis”, he set sail with his family and, reportedly 200, fellow emigrants in mid-1685. Scot and his wife sickened and died before reaching their destination, but the new settlement was named Scotsplains (now Scotch Plains) in his honour.

And here’s one that I’d personally love to get my hands on, what with my on-going obsession with those Royal Society guys, is Lot 3151 – a first edition of John Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis [free reg again]

As the catalogue notes

When the Greenwich observatory was set up in 1675 Flamsteed was put in charge as England’s first Astronomer Royal. This work was posthumously completed by Flamsteed’s widow, with the help of his two assistants James Hodgson and Joseph Crosthwait. The reason for this was his conflict with another scientist, Isaac Newton, the President of the Royal Society at the time. Flamsteed refused to publish work that had been commissioned by the king, and in 1712 Newton and Edmond Halley published a preliminary version of Flamsteed’s Historia coelestis Britannica without crediting the author. Flamsteed denounced it and destroyed as many copies as he could. By the time the celestial atlas designed to accompany the Historia appeared in 1729 Flamsteed had been dead for ten years.

Unfortunately, for me, the estimate is £4000-£6000. [How about a Slugger fund-raising drive? – Ed]

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