RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

25 January 2008

Sitwell and Blunt. Great Flower Books, 1956.



Sacheverell Sitwell and Wilfrid Blunt. GREAT FLOWER BOOKS 1700-1900. A bibliographical record of two centuries of finely-illustrated flower books. Collins, London 1956.

Current Selling Prices
$300-$1400 /£150-£700




NATURAL HISTORY / ART/ ILLUSTRATION
Sometimes described as 'Atlas Folio.' 19 1/2 x 13 3/4. x,94 p/pages incl index.36 full page plates, 20 colour, 16 plain. A sumptuous reference work reproducing examples by Thornton, Curtis, Redouté, and others. It has remained a primary reference in the field and is sometimes cited by booksellers attempting to sell books and plates that are described in it. The reproductions are finely done and it is not unknown for the book to be broken for its plates, the originals of which are mostly in the $1000+ range. Not uncommon, despite this, as there were 1750 copies done and a special signed and numbered edition of 295 in green half morocco with a slipcase. There are usually one or two copies to be found at bookfairs. As a distinguished and posh literary figure Sacheverell Sitwell was often wheeled in to write a piece for unwieldy coffee table books of the time (Fine Bird Books, Great Houses, Old Garden Roses etc.,)

VALUE? Auction records reveal an extaordinary, anomalous price achieved in 1999--you can spot it below:-
Great Flower Books. L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - orig half mor - rubbed - With 20 colored plates - Bloomsbury, Nov 27, 2003, lot 262, £220 ($374) - BM

Great Flower Books. L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - orig half cloth, in d/j - bdg with light wear at extremities - Swann, June 19, 2003, lot 348, $225 - BM

Great Flower Books. L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - orig half mor - rubbed - Bloomsbury, Mar 7, 2002, lot 229, £260 ($369.20), Daniels - BM

Great Flower Books.... L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - orig half mor by the Wigmore Bindery - Christie's, Mar 17, 1999, lot 95, £1,000 ($1,620) - BM

Great Flower Books.... L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - orig half mor - Swann, Apr 15, 1999, lot 182, $550 - BM

Great Flower Books.... L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - half mor - extremities worn - Swann, Mar 25, 1999, lot 37, $375 - BM

Great Flower Books.... L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - half mor - With 20 colored plates & 16 other full-page illusts - Sotheby's, May 14, 1999, lot 695, £220 ($354.20) - BM

Great Flower Books. L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - half mor - Sotheby's, Nov 18, 1999, lot 500, £200 ($330) - BM

Great Flower Books.... L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - half mor - Stanley Smith copy - Sotheby's, Oct 22, 1998, lot 295, £17,000 ($28,730) - BM

Great Flower Books.... L, 1956 - One of 295 - Folio, - half mor - Stanley Smith copy - Sotheby's, Oct 22, 1998, lot 211, £400 ($676) - BM
1999 was a sort of annus mirabilis for this book. Recent copies of the signed limited edition between 2003-2008 have stayed in the £200 to £400 range but 6 copies appeared in 1999 with one making the profoundly silly price of £17K. The fact that it was Stanley Smith's copy hardly explains it. Stanley Smith was a jolly collector of interesting books (he had alot of Andre Raffalovich for example) but he was not the Duke of Omnium. A bidding competition broke out between 2 collectors (said to be from the Gulf states)--several other lots were affected but this was noticeable because most dealers knew it as a £200 book and were impressed to see it reach eighty times its normal price. A classic 'pissing competition' - if you ever get involved in one be sure to be the underbidder. The most mysterious thing is that there was another copy in the sale, an earlier lot, that made £400. The moral of the story is not to trust freak auction results.

Below is the beautiful 'Night Blowing Cereus' featured in the book and taken from Thornton's 'Temple of Flora.' Note that the church clock is at midnight - the hour when the Cereus likes to show its full glory. To be horticulturally accurate it should be noted that it is not likely to flourish in an English churchyard. A.k.a. the Moon Cactus, it is mostly found in Jamaica and Cuba--visitors to botanic gardens never see the plant in full bloom unless they climb over the wall at midnight. The original 1802 Thornton plate which exists in 2 states can sometimes be found selling for circa £3000 to £4000.

Post a Comment