A collection of 126 leaves from a 15th century illuminated Mamluk Qur’an. Estimate £12,000-18,000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

LONDON.- Bloomsbury Auctions present their sale of Continental, English & Middle Eastern Books & Manuscripts on Thursday 19th March in London at their saleroom in Mayfair. The sale charts the development of printing on the continent and in England, with works dating from the 1470s up until the 18th century. 

Particularly in vogue after the release of Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, is a 17th century work on codes and secret writing; Cryptomenytices et Cryptographiae libri IX, first edition (1624), by Augustus II, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, written under the pseudonym, Gustav Selenus. The engraved title page of the work is believed to provide the first clue of Sir Francis Bacon’s supposed authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. In one vignette it depicts Bacon handing a manuscript text to Shakespeare (a man holding a spear) and in another depicts Bacon writing on a folio-sized piece of paper, which hints at the first folio edition of the plays, published a year earlier in 1623 [estimate £2,000-3,000 Lot 129]. The fourth folio edition of the plays of 1685 is also offered here. It is the last edition to be printed in the 17th century [estimate £10,000-15,000 Lot 157]. 


Cryptography.- Augustus II, (Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg), Gustavus Selenus Cryptomenytices et Cryptographiæ Libri IX, first edition, 1624. Estimate £2000–3000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

half-title, title within fine engraved historiated border, folding letter-press table, 3 engraved illustrations, woodcut diagrams, musical notation, initials, head- and tail-pieces and printer's device at end, holes in upper margin of half-title repaired, N3 upper corner repaired with loss of page number, stain to lower margin of 2R3 to end, just within text / image on 2S6, short tear within stain to 2S4-6, occasional spotting, lightly browned, contemporary calf, rebacked, rubbed and scuffed, [Caillet 10114], folio, [Luneburg], [Johann and Heinrich Stern]. 

On codes and secret writing. Printed the year after the First Folio the engraved title is of particular interest. It purports to attribute the authorship of Shakespeare's plays to Sir Francis Bacon. One panel supposedly depicts Bacon handing a text to Shakespeare (a man holding a spear), while another supposedly depicts Augustus holding the Cap of Maintenance over the head of Bacon, who is writing on a folio-sized piece of paper


William Shakespeare, Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, edited by John Heminge and Henry Condell, [Fourth Folio Edition], 1685. Estimate £10000–15000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

title without Chiswell's name, double column, small woodcut ornament to title, lacking portrait frontispiece (provided in facsimile), ink signatures erased from title, causing 1 very small hole and some creasing, A1 repaired tear within text without loss, T6 short tear at head just within text and 2Y1 and 3V3short tear at foot, all without loss, 3P6 small part of lower margin torn away, not affecting text, occasional staining, some spotting and foxing (the latter mostly light in tone), some marginal water-staining, mostly to lower corners towards end, causing a little fraying to lower corners of last few ff. (not affecting text), small ink diagram and number to fore-edge, contemporary mottled calf, rebacked in modern brown crushed morocco, spine in compartments and with red morocco label, corners worn, small piece of leather missing from upper cover, rubbed and marked, [Greg III, pp.1119-21; STC S2915; cf. Pforzheimer 910], folio, printed for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, at the Anchor in the New Exchange, the Crane in St. Pauls Church-Yard, and in Russel-Street Covent-Garden, 1685. 

The last of the 17th century editions of Shakespeare's collected plays. It was printed on taller paper stock than the previous folio editions. Herringman and his co-publishers decided on a larger paper size in order to increase the number of lines per page, and so decrease the bulk of the book.However, including the added plays, the number of sheets in the Fourth Folio is almost exactly the same as that in the First and Second. 

Provenance: Hugh Lee Pattinson (engraved armorial bookplate)

Regardless of Shakespeare’s true identity it is well documented that his works were inspired by the comedies of the Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus. Leading an impressive opening group of 45 incunables from a private collection is Comoediae (1472) by Plautus. 

This fine collection of incunabula charts the development of printing in Europe from 1471-1500. Collections of this size rarely appear at auction, and it is particularly unusual to see an editio princeps of Plautus’ Comoediae at auction. The last copy the auctioneer can trace was in 1961. This rare survivor is estimated to achieve £10,000-15,000 [Lot 4]. 



Plautus (Titus Maccius) - Comoediae, [edited by Georgius Merula], first edition, 1472. Estimate £10000–15000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

241 ff. (of 245, lacking ff. '5' and #7' (both supplied in facsimile) and blanks 244 and 245), f.4 blank, 41 lines, Roman type, initials in red and blue, early ink notes to blank, marginalia and headlines, a number of mostly small or very small repairs within text (f.215 larger repair), text supplied in most instances, marginal repairs, occasional staining or soiling, contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, lacking 1 clasp, spine repaired, rubbed and scuffed, [BMC V, 160; Goff P-779; HC 13074], folio, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira for Johannes de Colonia, 1472.  

The editio princeps is rare at auction. The last copy we can trace was in 1961 (The Firmin-Didot - Crewe copy). The influence of the comedies of Plautus on the work of Shakespeare, Dryden and Molière (amongst others) is well documented. 

Elsewhere in the sale is the first printing of the works of the mathematician Euclid, with an introduction by John Dee, alchemist, occult philosopher and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I; The Elements of Geometrie, (1570). John Dee’s preface is considered by many to be his most important published work. It outlines the practical applications of Euclid’s work, lays the foundations for later experimental science and hints at the use of magic and the supernatural in conjunction with the natural [estimate £20,000-30,000 Lot 115]. 


Euclid. The Elements of Geometrie,  translated by Sir Henry Billingsley, preface by John Dee, first edition in English of the first complete translation, 1570. Estimate £20000–30000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

title within fine woodcut border depicting Ptolemy and Strabo, amongst others, folding letter-press table, woodcut diagrams, Book XI 23 diagrams with one or more overslips, large woodcut portrait of John Day above colophon, woodcut historiated or decorative initials and tail-pieces, lacking final blank, short repair within table, mostly within blank area, ink smudges within text to [fist]2v and [fist]3r, occasional staining, mostly marginal, but heavier to sig.D, occasional spotting, antique style calf, gilt spine in compartments, housed in a morocco-backed cloth drop-back box, [STC 10560; Thomas-Stanford 41; cf. PMM 25], folio, by John Daye, [1570].

John Dee's preface is considered by many to be his most important published work. It outlines the practical applications of Euclid's work, lays the foundations for later experimental science and hints at the use of magic and the supernatural in conjunction with the natural. In addition, Dee also contributed additional theorems and annotations. The translator Billingsley became Lord Mayor of London in 1596. 

Provenance: The Arnaud de Vitry copy (full-page etched bookplate before title), sold Sotheby's 10th April, 2002, lot 319); Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, Bt. (bookplate to front pastedown). 

The sale will also feature a selection of books and manuscripts from the growing Middle-Eastern department at Bloomsbury Auctions including the first book printed in Arabic in the Lebanon, Nieremberg's Kitab Mizan Al-Zaman… (1734) [estimate £2,000-3,000 Lot 63] and a collection of 126 leaves from a 15th century illuminated Mamluk Qur’an [estimate £12,000-18,000 Lot 66]. 



Lebanese printing.- Gospels in Arabic. [Kitab al-Ingil as-sharif at-tahir wa-al-misbah al-munir al-zahir…(Book of the Liturgical Gospels)], first Dair as-Shuwair edition, 1776. Estimate £2000–3000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

printed in Arabic within ruled borders, numerous typographical ornaments, 4 engraved plates depicting evangelists, most f. printed in red and black, 1 plate adhered to facing page along lower margin with some resulting damage, some dampstaining and soiling to upper and lower margins (affecting text), contemporary calf, rather worn and chipped, [Darlow & Moule 1661; Nasrallah p.41], 4to, Lebanon, Dair as-Shuwair, [ 1776]. 

"The Evangelion of the greek Church, containing the Gospels arranged for liturgical reading throughout the year" (D&M). This is one of a small group of Christian Arabic books printed at the monastery of St.John the Baptist at Dair as-Shuwair in Lebanon. 

Note: This is the first Dair as-Shuwair edition, but the second of this Melchite version which first appeared in 1706 with liturgical explanations.




Early illuminated Mamluk Qur'an,  from the Surat [Al-Fa ti h ah (the Opening)] to Surat [Al-'Isra ' (the Night Journey)], Surahs 1-17 only, 15th centuryPhoto Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

126ff Arabic manuscript in elegant black muhaqqaq script, 13 lines, decorative carpet title and f2&3 with illuminated borders in red, blue, black and gold, 15 illuminated Surat headings in blue within red, blue, black and gold decorative borders , 54 marginal ornaments/roundels and floral devices marking verses in similar colours, first 3f a little faded, some age-toning and foxing, a little soiled and stained, some small marginal tears, margins to first 10f heavily repaired (affecting text and illustrations in places) remaining f with minor marginal repairs rarely affecting text, margins trimmed sometimes affecting ornaments, later blind-stampted morocco with flap, extremities lightly rubbed and scuffed, covers lightly stained, 4to (c.300 x 230mm), [Egypt], n.d. [15th cent].

Early Illuminated Mamluk Qur'an, comprising 3 of the 7 manzil: a division of the Qur'an into 7 equal sections for the convenience of reading a section everyday of the week. 

Other important Middle-Eastern works include an Indian Qu’ran in Bihari script that bears the inscription; “Looted from valley of Barkilli, Boner, 16.1.98” [estimate £750-1,000 Lot 75] and a rare early copy of Molla' Khosro's Kitab Durar Al-Hukkam… (988AH) [1580AD], an important legal treatise on the principles of legal practice. This work is thought to have been copied directly from the author’s original by celebrated writer and Hanafi jurist, Muhammad B. Faramurz b. Ali, d.1480 [estimate £800-1,200 Lot 71]. 

Indian Qur'an

Indian Qur'an. Arabic manuscript in black birahi script, 1092 AH [1682 AD]. Estimate £750–1000Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

surat headings and some diacritics in red, double-ruled in red, verses marked with red and black dots arranged in floral cluster, catch-words, some minor worming to outer margins (not affecting text), a few marginal repairs, affecting boarder and part of text in first 10f only, lightly soiled or stained, later inscriptions to endpapers, later blind-stamped calf with flap, stamped central medallions to covers, rebacked, stained and rather rubbed, extremities cracked with some loss to upper cover, repaired, 8vo (c.200 x 150mm), [India], 1092 AH [1682 AD].

Inscription to front pastedown reads "Looted from valley of Barkilli, Boner, 16.1.98". 
The London Gazette printed a report on the field operations in Bruner [present day Pakistan] on the 22nd April 1898, which provides details of the Bruner Field Expedition of 1898 lead by Major-General Sir Bindon Blood: "On the 16th [January] Brigadier-General Meiklejohn moved to Barkilli, close to the Boner Pass, where [Bindon Blood] joined him, and the force marched… to Bajkatta". 




Molla' Khosro (Muhammad B. Faramurz b. Ali, celebrated writer and Hanafi jurist , d.1480).- [Kitab Durar al-Hukkam fi Sharh Ghurar al-Ahkam]. Estimate £800–1200. Photo Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

185pp Arabic manuscript in black naskhi (verging on thuluth), symbolic words and some diacritics in red, 15 lines, first 2f ruled in black and gold with illuminated headpiece, others ff ruled in red, marginal notes, some damp and water staining, mostly affecting final 20ff, light finger-soiling, later notes and stamp to endpapers, 19th cent morocco with blind stamped central medallion, rebacked and extremities repaired, rubbed, 8vo (c.210 x 128mm), [near East], 988 AH [1580 AD]; sold not subject to return. 

A rare early copy of this important legal treatise on the principles of legal practice, thought to have been copied directly from the author's original.


The Continental, English & Middle Eastern Books and Manuscripts sale will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ saleroom in London’s Mayfair on Thursday 19th March 2015. The catalogue is available to view and download online at www.bloomsburyauctions.com