Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Early English Manuscript Sells Big

Sotheby's London had a small (36 lot) sale of Western and Oriental manuscripts today (results here). The big seller was a late fourteenth-century collection of historical tracts, including Marco Polo's account of his travels in China, William of Tripoli's Tractatus de Statu Saracenorum & Machometo (Account of the State of the Saracens and Mohammedans), a biography of Emma, the wife of King Cnut (Encomium Emmae Reginae), and a section of prophecies in prose and verse.

This compilation volume, known as the Courtenay Compendium, was "probably produced by a member of the Augustinian canons of the priory of Breamore in Hampshire from manuscripts in the library of Glastonbury Abbey." The priory's possessions were leased to Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon and Marquess of Exeter, in 1536, and the work remained in the family's library until the present day. Sotheby's catalog description notes "the manuscript almost certainly has an unbroken line of provenance since the fourteenth century, and has never been sold since the day it was written."

The presale estimate for this piece was 200,000-300,000 GBP. It sold for 937,250 GBP (that's $1.38 million, if you're counting).

No word yet on the buyer. If I find out, I'll pass word along.