Auction  August 17, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

Rare Book Sale to Bring in Over $25 Million at Sotheby's

Nathan Keay - Tiny Mechanism

T. Kimball Brooker

For the first time in over a decade, Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts will have a live evening auction that is estimated to bring in over $25 million. Bibliotheca Brookeriana is the sale of the collection of Barbara Oil Company president T. Kimball Brooker, featuring over 1,300 sixteenth century French and Italian books.

This vast and carefully curated collection will be sold over a series of eight auctions in New York and London, beginning with a live evening sale in New York on October 11. This sale will feature the “crown jewel” of the collection, a group of Renaissance-era volumes published by Aldus Manutius. 

Courtesy Sotheby's

The collection of T. Kimball Brooker

Manutius was a 15th century Italian printer, who revolutionized publishing and the way we interact with books. Aldus set up a printing press, Aldine Press, to publish classical Greek works. Medieval books were typically large tomes that were meant to be read in a library, often with difficult to read typeface. Aldus, wanting to change this, began printing smaller and more portable books, ones that could fit in your pocket. He also changed the typography to be clearer, and even developed italics, evidenced by a few words in a 15th century woodcut. 

Courtesy Sotheby's

Anthologia Graeca. The first Aldine edition of the Greek Anthology, first printed by Lorenzo di Alopa in Florence in 1494, and now expanded by Aldo with additional material. Venice - Aldo Manuzio, October 1503. Printed on vellum, one of five.

In the 1960s, T. Kimball Brooker embarked on a journey of collecting Aldus’s books, resulting in an impressive compilation of nearly 1,000 volumes published between the 1490s and the 1590s. Representing the most substantial gathering of Aldine works available for sale in more than a hundred years, this collection stands as a unique testament, constituting the sole privately amassed library of its kind beyond the borders of Europe. And with an estimate of over $10 million, it will also most likely be the highest selling collection of Aldines.

“One of the best things about seeing books in their original bindings is that it gives more of an idea of how the book was viewed at the time, how it was used, and who was reading it," said Charlotte Miller, Specialist, Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's.

One of the special features of the auction is an initial manuscript of Leonardo da Vinci’s treatise on painting, estimated to sell for at least $120,000. The manuscript encompasses 275 sections and is accompanied by fifty-six ink drawings that serve as illustrations. 

Courtesy of Sotheby's

Castiglione, Baldassarre. Il libro del cortegiano del conte Baldesar Castiglione. Venice - in the house of Aldo Manuzio & Andrea Torresano, April 1528.

The sale will also include further highlights of the collection, including Sebastiano Serlio’s il terzo libro and Regole generali di architecttura. These books were dedicated to the King of France in the 16th century, are renowned for their special and rare printing on large blue paper. There will also be a first edition copy of Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili from 1546 in the sale, alongside a wax-relief portrait by Giovanni Battista Capocaccia depicting Pope Pius V (ruler of the Papal States from 1566 to 1572) with his secretary. This work was kept by the Pope in his library, and is the only signed relief by Capocaccia. A signed wax-relief portrait of Pope Pius V was sold at Christie's in 2005. And if that sale is any indication (it realized $480,800 on a low estimate of $20,000), this one is sure to cause a stir.

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