Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Copernicus Smashes Estimates

I'll have more on today's Christie's phenomenal sale of the Richard Green Library in the morning, but I must note the whopping price paid for the first edition copy of Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543). Presale estimates had suggested the book might go for up to $1.2 million, but after premiums the lot went for $2,210,500.

This copy, one of the widest-margined copies still in existence, was once owned by Frenchman Nicolas-Joseph Foucault (1643-1721), described in the Christie's catalogue as an "archeologist [sic], early bibliophile, lawyer, politician and administrator." After Foucault, the copy's provenance went like this, according to the catalogue: "Myron Prinzmetal (1908-1987), cardiologist, purchased this copy in 1957 from F. Thomas Heller, New York, who had acquired it from Librarie Thomas-Scheler, Paris, listed by Scheler in his Catalogue nouvelle serie no. 1 (1957); sold by Zeitlin & VerBrugge to Richard Green in 1975."

The sale total nearly doubled the $6 million presale estimate. I'll have more highlights (and there are quite a few more highlights) in the morning.