Astronomical texts and fantastic worlds of fairies

Astronomical diagram from a manuscript which made £40,000 at Forum.

Two very different lots helped Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) to boost its first major sale of the year.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

Astronomical diagram from a manuscript which made £40,000 at Forum.

Sold at £40,000 at the auction on January 22 was a paper and vellum manuscript compendium of astronomical texts that the auction house suggested might have been put together in northern Italy, perhaps Verona or Bologna, c.1470.

The various texts on which it draws include “significant portions” of the Kalendarium of Regiomontanus, along with other prognostic texts having their origins in the 12th-15th centuries.

One of two full-page vellum diagrams still retained its moveable volvelle, or moveable wheel chart, and there are 10 full-page illustrations of eclipses – though for these Forum suggests a later date of 1475-1530.

In period but now wormed boards, this is a volume that was once part of the vast manuscript collections of Sir Thomas Phillips (1792-1872).

Fairies appeal

A spread from the calligraphic version of Thomas Hood’s poem The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, featuring watercolour illustrations by Edith Mendham, sold by Forum for £4000.

The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies is the opening poem of the only published collection of the more serious verses of the writer and humourist Thomas Hood (1799-1845), a work that he dedicated to Charles Lamb and had published in 1827.

The spread reproduced above is part of a calligraphic manuscript version of his fairy world poem that features 33 original watercolour illustrations by Edith Mendham (fl.1888-1911), someone about whom little is known, it seems, but who was obviously highly competent.

Dating from c.1890 and bound in crushed brown morocco gilt by Roger de Coverly, this oblong folio work was last seen at auction in 1979, at Christie’s.

In the recent Forum sale it sold at £4000.