The Holbrook T. Mitchell Collection Of Books & Manuscripts Goes Up For Bid On January 29 At Turner Auctions + Appraisals

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85-Lot Auction Highlights the Book of Hours Illuminated Manuscript

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CA, January 5, 2022 – Turner Auctions + Appraisals is pleased to present the Holbrook T. Mitchell Collection of Books & Manuscripts on January 29, 2022. From the estate of a Northern California collector, the auction features 85 lots of antique or vintage written works in various languages from the 14th-20th centuries. Themes include art, antiquities, history, geography, travel and foreign countries, literature, poems, commentaries, and more. Highlights include an illuminated 19th-century Persian Qu’ran (Koran) in Arabic; a book from the library of Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the second wife of Napoleon; Cook’s Voyages Around the World by G. W. Anderson, 1781; 11 Egyptian papyrus fragments, likely all from a single leaf; and a first edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from 1885.

Eleven Egyptian Papyrus Fragments, Single Scroll
Eleven Egyptian Papyrus Fragments, Single Scroll

Of particular note in this auction is the Book of Hours (Horae), an illuminated manuscript in Latin from the 15th-16th centuries. Popular in the Middle Ages and produced initially by scribes in monasteries, books of hours were created to assist the daily devotions of Christian monks, nuns, and laymen. They contained sets of prayers, usually in Latin, which were to be recited during the eight canonical hours. These books, each unique, were often designed with great visual appeal, with leading artists paid by wealthy patrons to create opulent illustrations that encouraged reflection and piety.

Born in Philadelphia, Holbrook Mitchell (1929-2021) lived in the Pennsylvania suburbs as a child where he fell in love with farming, portending his future career. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was still a boy. Holbrook was an adventurous and resourceful young man: spending a summer studying in Oxford, England, he turned a 3-speed bicycle into a 9-speed, then rode across Europe when such escapades were uncommon. He also biked across the United States. His studies were diverse and included law school, time in a seminary, and acquiring a teaching credential. After serving in the military in Army intelligence during the Korean War, he purchased a farm in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley, where he grew grapes, apples, and prunes. The family later moved to a ranch in Napa Valley where they planted vineyards with various wine grape varietals.

Mr. Mitchell had a wide range of interests: he loved England, history, the opera and symphony, and Rolls-Royce and Bentley automobiles. He also judged classic cars; restored a Victorian house; and built a grain mill. Likewise, he was an avid collector with eclectic tastes, including ancient Egyptian artifacts, French paintings, Victorian furniture, and more. However, his favorite collectibles were books, following in the collecting footsteps of his mother. Young Holbrook began acquiring books as a boy, beginning with Christmas and birthday presents from his mother. When he was an adult, his collection grew: in addition to books from his mother, he sourced volumes and manuscripts from auctions and San Francisco booksellers, including John Howell Books. Now, with his passing, the family invites others to acquire some of the rare and historical books that Mr. Mitchell so enjoyed through the years.

Turner Auctions + Appraisals begins its online auction on Saturday, January 29, 2022, at 10:30 am PST; sale items are available for preview and bidding now. The auction will be featured live on multiple platforms: LiveAuctioneers, Invaluable, Bidsquare, iCollector, and Turner Auctions + Appraisals’ free mobile app, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Apps (“Turner Auctions”). All are easily accessed through ‘Upcoming Auctions’ at the company’s website:  www.turnerauctionsonline.com/upcoming-auctions

Here are some highlights of the upcoming sale (see details in online catalog):  

Lot 55:  Horea, Illuminated Manuscript, Book of Hours, c. 15th-16th century, in Latin. 12mo (7 1/8 x 5 3/8 in.). Full brown blindstamped Morocco leather; center of both covers with a figure of Jesus, bordered by a vining pattern, blocked by linear borders embellished at each corner with four roses, three scalloped shapes along the spine. There are five raised bands to the spine, interspersed with foliate decorations, and “HORAE” is stamped in gold at the head of the spine. The front inner border of the binding has a gilt mark: “P. Claessens Fils,” 19th c. Belgian bookbinder. All edges gilt. (Note: a penciled notation on the pastedown states the manuscript is 14th c.) The manuscript comprises 34 illuminated vellum leaves (6 7/8 x 5 in.), which include 11 large and eight smaller miniatures, with illuminated initials throughout, in gold, red, and blue. The larger miniatures are in rectangular-framed compartments; the smaller miniatures are in square-framed compartments. Text is in dark brown ink in a gothic liturgical hand, with rubrics in red. There are about eight pages with marginalia. Overall condition appears to be Good. Binding is very good and shows little wear; a small crack in the leather at the top hinge. Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000. 

Lot 39:  Cook’s Voyages Around the World; 1781. Anderson, George William [Ed.]. New, Authentic, and a Complete Collection of Voyages Round the World, Undertaken and Performed by Royal Authority. Containing a New, Authentic, Entertaining, Instructive, Full, and Complete Historical Account of Captain Cook’s First, Second, Third and Last Voyages, Undertaken by Order of his Present Majesty, for Making New Discoveries in Geography, Navigation, Astronomy, &c. in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, &c. &c. &c. and Successfully Performed in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771-1772, 1773, 1774, 1775-116, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780. London: Printed for Alex[ander] Hogg [1784-1786]. Folio (15 3/4 x 10 3/4 in.). A repaired/conserved binding: covers are brown calf; spine and remnant corners are cream leather, the spine with raised bands and a new gilt red morocco title label; replaced pastedowns. Frontispiece engraved portrait of Cook is present; Preface with dedication to the King, the Lord Admiralty, the Captains and Officers of the Royal Navy, and public at large; front fold-out map is present; all further engraved plans, views, maps, and illustrations of peoples and artifacts throughout appear to be present. The volume ends with a journal of the route and a list of subscribers. Good to Very Good. Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000.

Lot 77:  Eleven Egyptian Papyrus Fragments, Single Scroll. The 11 papyrus fragments are likely all from a single leaf, lettered/drawn in black. At least two sets of three fragments appear to match up. Elements of two figures are present, including two winged figures, and one with a bird headpiece. At least 19 columns of hieroglyphics are represented. The fragments are resting on a linen background, framed. The fragments mostly range in height from about 11-12 in. The smallest fragment is about 2 1/2 in. As a roughly contiguous set, the overall dimensions are about 12 x 20 in. The frame measures 17 x 24 in. It is understood to have been acquired from John J. Newbegin Bookseller, 353 Post Street, San Francisco. Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000. 

Lot 54:  Illuminated Persian Qu’ran, c. 19th century. In Arabic, illuminated on paper. 18mo (6 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.). Brown embossed morocco leather, the central design (on front and back covers) surrounded by a solid gilt vining decoration, blocked with a gilt embossed and outlined border. Bright pink endpapers. Over 250 illuminated leaves, the black, red, and gilt-embellished text in gilt-blocked and red-outlined borders, interspersed with floral/ patterned illuminated section bands with white text, and approximately 38 floral embellishments at margins throughout. The final two pages are fully illuminated, with vining florals in red, blue, and green, the text blocked by both floral and red and white borders, with green bordered bands at top and bottom. Very Good. Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000. 

Lot 34:  From Library of Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the Second Wife of Napoleon. De L’Emploi du Temps. Par Mme. La Comtesse de Genlis. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, Libraire, 1824. 8vo. Original red leather boards with gilt-embossed spine and Marie Louise’s gilt cypher, a crown over “ML,” on the front and back covers. Engraved frontispiece. A volume in French, owned personally by Marie Louise, second wife of Napoleon. An undated letter is tipped into the back, on the letterhead of John Howell Bookseller (San Francisco), stating that: “The book was bought in Paris by a member of the faculty of the University of California, who guaranteed that it was from the library of Marie-Louise, wife of Napoleon.” Very Good. Estimate: $800 – $1,000. 

Lot 38:  Commentaries of Caesar, Translated into English. To which is prefixed a Discourse Concerning the Roman Art of War. Translated by William Duncan. London:     J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper; and R. Dodsley, 1753. Folio (17 x 11 in.). Half calf and pebbled cloth. Raised bands and gilt to spine. Engraved frontispiece and 77 plates (55 double-page); 6 double-page folding maps; the Buffalo illustration is present, with a small (about 1-in.) tear on fold at the animal’s belly, and about a 3-in. tear on the strip attaching to the binding (but not on the illustration page itself). Very Good. Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000. 

Lot 40:  Antiquarum Lectionum Commentarious, Aldine 1516. Rhodigini, Lodouici Caelii. Sixteen Books of Selections from the Ancients. Venice: Aldine Press, 1516. 4to (12 1/4 x 9 in.). Mottled calf, six gilt raised bands interspersed with intricate gilt tooling; tooling on all edges; a small old paper label reading 1516 attached; marbled endpapers, all edges marbled. The title page includes the Aldine anchor in red, and also at the back in black. This edition is dedicated by the author to Jean Grolier, Secretary to the King of the French, and Chief Treasurer in Milan. The volume appears complete. Good. Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000. 

Lot 75:  Illuminated Manuscript Leaf from a Book of Hours. A vellum manuscript leaf depicting a scene from the Book of Hours. Possibly late 15th/early 16th century. The miniature image is surrounded by a blue and gold acanthus leaf border with blue and white flowers, red berries, green leaves. Beneath the miniature, there are eight lines of text with a large blue and white floral initial, and two gold single-line initials. The robes of the three figures kneeling before Christ are illuminated with fine gilt lines. The manuscript image measures 6 x 3 1/2 in. Very Good. The colors are vivid. The leaf is in a matting frame board, with a piece of paper affixed to the back of the board. It is presumed that the leaf itself is not attached, but the backing paper has not been removed. Estimate: $1,000 – $1,500. 

Lot 44:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade). Leather, 1885 First Edition. Twain, Mark [Clemens, Samuel Langhorne]. New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885. 8vo. Sheepskin with red and black gilt labels to spine, plain endpapers. This volume appears to be First State, having the following points: p. 13 the illustration captioned “Him and another Man” is listed at p. 88; p. 57 eleventh line from the bottom reads “…with the wars…”; p. 155 the final “5” in page number is “stamped-in”; frontispiece portrait marked “Heliotype Printing Company”; 1884 copyright date is on verso of title page; p. 9 heading for Ch. 6 reads “Decided”; p. 143 illustrated “I” in first line is missing and “b” in “body” line 7 is broken; there is no signature mark on p. 11.  Fair-Good. Estimate: $800 – $1,200. 

Lot 85:  Eight Illuminated Choir Book Vellum Leaves from Large Choir Books. Sizes range from approximately 19 1/2 x 30 in. to 32 x 21 1/2 in. The leaves have been rolled together and hold a rolled form. Every leaf has one or more large, illuminated initials, and two to three styles appear to be represented. One leaf has a figural illustration. Two of the leaves have clipped hand-written notes from the previous owner, which read: “Very early Mexican manuscript (c. 1540), Mexico City, printed by the first Spanish monks to establish themselves in Mexico. The dyes are from local monks, on Spanish vellum”; and “Later Mexican manuscript (circa 1585), monastery of St. Francis of Assisi, native vellum and dyes. Prepared by the converted Indians.” They are all in generally good condition. Estimate: $600 – $800. 

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