What is considered to be a masterpiece in the world of rare books? Is it an attractive cover, skilfully executed illustrations or foremost content that makes a book valuable and sought after? This summer one will have a chance to find out for oneself, as Shapero Rare Books
are bringing examples of the finest illustrated books ever produced along with first editions of the works that shaped the history of mankind to Masterpiece, the biggest fine art, antiques and design fair in London.
The highlights include:
Fine set of the first edition of Adam Smiths An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations - a cornerstone work, which the author spent ten years writing and perfecting before finally publishing it in 1776. 'The book succeeded at once, and the first edition was exhausted in six months...Whether it be true or not, as Buckle said, that the Wealth of Nations was, in its ultimate results, probably the most important that had ever been written...it is probable that no book can be mentioned which so rapidly became an authority both with statesmen and philosophers' (ODNB).
Rare set of the first and early editions of Charles Darwin's Works (various dates between 1842 - 1881) formed by the prominent mineralogist Nevil Story Maskelyne and his wife and photographic pioneer Thereza, who corresponded with Darwin on several occasions. No collected edition of Darwin was published in his lifetime; indeed, this was only issued in 1990, and collected sets formed in the nineteenth century, such as the present lot are rare.
Fine example of Edward Kingsboroughs Antiquities of Mexico, one of the greatest illustrated works and an important record of Mexican history. Having become fascinated by Mexican artefacts whilst studying at Oxford, Kingsborough employed the Italian painter Augustine Aglio to scour Europes greatest libraries and private collections for Mexican manuscripts. Aglio sketched manuscripts and later lithographed for publication. The cost of this monumental work was about £ 32,000 (a monumental amount) and it took 17 years to complete. Kingsboroughs dedication to his dream led to his tragic death of typhus contracted while in prison in Dublin, after he was arrested for debts to a paper manufacturer.
A superb copy of Geoffrey Chaucers Works from the edition of 425 published by Kelmscott Press. This book was a triumphal achievement of William Morris, the 19th-century designer, social reformer and writer. He founded the Kelmscott Press in attempts to revive the skills of hand printing, which mechanisation had destroyed. The magnificent Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1896, is the triumph of the press. Its 87 illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones, the celebrated Victorian painter and a life-long friend of Morris, set a new benchmark for book design at the end of the 19th century.