Last Sunday evening saw the staff and friends of the Parker Library dress up and decamp to the more glamorous and almost as venerable surroundings of Sotheby’s in New Bond Street. The occasion was the launch of a very special book: The Medieval Book: Glosses from Friends and Colleagues of Christopher de Hamel, published to mark Dr de Hamel’s 60th birthday. There’ll be more about the book once we’ve had a proper look at it.
It was a chance to celebrate the many accomplishments of Dr de Hamel’s long and distinguished career in the Department of Manuscripts at Sotheby’s and at the Parker Library in the company of many eminent manuscript scholars and collectors, most of whom were old friends of the library.
We also had an opportunity to see the rare books and manuscripts ready for auction in this week’s sales. This included a fabulous 3 volume 14th-century Grail manuscript with gorgeous illuminated miniatures and initials which has received a lot of press attention.
The outstanding item from the second sale, books and manuscripts from the collection of Lord Hesketh, was a copy of the first edition of Audubon’s Birds of America. The four volumes, in their original bindings, are just enormous, so-called double elephant folio size, or almost a metre tall with the most exquisite vivid illustrations. It was a real privilege to see it. And it’s not surprising that it ended up selling for a world record price for a printed book – over £7million.
All in all, a memorable evening of books and bibliophiles.