The Minneapolis Athenaeum Collection.
The Special Collections Inventory contains many masterpieces from the past. We will be listing many of these books with a brief description and photograph on this page. Check back often as we add new titles.
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
The Birds of America
FROM ORIGINAL DRAWINGS. London: Published by the Author. 1827-1838.
4 folio/volumes. “double-elephant” broadsheets. Engraved title page in each volume (each with perforated stamp of the Minneapolis Athenaeum) and 435 hand-colored, etched and aquatint plates, by William H. Lizars (Edinburgh), Robert Havell, Sr. and Robert Havell Jr (London) after Audubon’s original life size watercolor drawings.
On J. Whitman and J. Whitman Turkey Mill paper with watermarks dated 1827-1838.
The plates evenly divided between the volumes as follows:
Volume I. plates 1-109
Volume II. plates 110-218
Volume III. plates 219-327
Volume IV plates 328-435.
First 10 plates in early states, engraved by William Home Lizars alone, plates V-X “Printed & Colored by Robert Havell Senior.
Bound in mid 19th Century English half green Morocco, cloth boards. Each volume with Morocco title label on front cover. Spines in 10 compartments divided by gilt rules, edges gilt, marbled endleaves each with printed label of Hearne, Strand, London on verso of front free endpaper.
Interleaved throughout with contemporary sheets of thin wove paper.
Hearne, Bookseller. London. Recorded in Audubon’s Ledger “B” and included in the list of subscribers in vols. I and V of the “Ornithological Biography.
Acquired by Edmund D. Brooks on behalf of the Athenaeum through his London Agent, Charles J. Sawyer, Ltd.
Accession records at the Athenaeum record that the set was received in June of 1909. The set was purchased for $2500.00. Included with the purchase was the following.
AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES (1785-1851). ORNITHOLOGICAL BIOGRAPHY OR AN ACCOUNT OF THE HABITS OF THE BIRDS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; accompanied by descriptions of the objects represented in the work entitled THE BIRDS OF AMERICA. Edinburgh: Adams and Charles Black, 1831-1839. 5 volumes. Perforated stamp of the Athenaeum on each title. Bound uniformly with the preceding and with matching label of Hearne bookseller. On the Strand. London.
Insurance appraisal performed by Christies Appraisals, Inc 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020. November 18th 2015.
Giovanni Piranesi (1720-1778)
Vedute di Roma
Title engraved on the title page: Views of Rome drawn and etched by Giambattista Piranesi, Venetian Architect. The plates executed over the course of Piranesi's career from the 2nd half of the 1740's until his death, were printed and sold as individual sheets or in collections that gradually increased as his output progressed and occasionally included other series of prints as well. Posthumous edition, bearing the same title, consisting of 144 prints compiled in 1778 plus 2 title pages
Giovanni Piranesi was fascinated by the historic grandeur of the monuments and buildings of Ancient Rome. He spent a lifetime engraving the images of Roman artifacts. As an architect by trade Piranesi combined his talents with his unbelievable creative energy to produce a large volume of etchings/engravings illustrating the Roman city. Starting from the early 1740s until his death in 1778 he produced what we know today as the
“Vendute di Roma” a folio of plates which were assembled into sets for sale by his son Francesco Piranesi in 1778.
The 3 Athenaeum folios include the “Pianta Di Roma e Del Campo Mazzo” dedicated to Pope Clementi XIIII. “Nuova pianti di Roma in luce” by Giambattista Nolli” circa 1748 and “Vendute del prospetto principale della Colonna Trajana” by Piranesi. The Athenaeum acquired these wonderful complete folios in 1889.
Albertus Seba (1665-1736)
Cabinet of Natural Curiosties
4 large volumes. Original green leather embossed bindings. Published in 1734 (Volumes I & II) Last 2 volumes published in 1759 and 1765.
Born in Etzel, Seba moved to Amsterdam as an apprentice and, around 1700, opened a pharmacy near the harbour. Seba asked sailors and ship surgeons to bring exotic plants and animal products he could use for preparing drugs. Seba also started to collect snakes, birds, insects, shells and lizards in his house.
From 1711 he delivered drugs to the Russian court in Saint Petersburg and sometimes accepted fresh ginger as payment. Seba promoted his collection with the head-physician to Peter the Great, Robert Erskine (1674–1719), and in early 1716 Peter the Great bought the complete collection. In the following several years, Seba managed to develop another collection of natural specimens, which grew more extensive than the first.
With Seba as an intermediate, Frederik Ruysch, a well-known Amsterdam physician and anatomist, also sold his collection to the tsar. Both collections formed the core of the Kunstkammer, the first Russian public museum founded by Peter the Great in 1712. Later, in 1728, when a special museum building was designed and built, both collections, along with many other exhibits, were displayed there.
In October 1728 Seba had become a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1734, he had published a Thesaurus of animal specimens with beautiful engravings. The full name of the Thesaurus is, with a dual Latin–Dutch title, Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio – Naaukeurige beschryving van het schatryke kabinet der voornaamste seldzaamheden der natuur (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects). The last two of the four volumes were published after his death (1759 and 1765). Today, the original 446-plate volume is on permanent exhibit at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands. Recently, a complete example of the Thesaurus sold for US $460,000 at an auction. In 2001, Taschen Books published a reprint of the Thesaurus, with a second printing in 2006.
EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952)
The North American Indian
THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN BEING A SERIES OF VOLUMES PICTURING AND DESCRIBING THE INDIANS OF THE UNITED STATES AND ALASKA. Edited by Frederick Webb Hodge.
Forward by Theodore Roosevelt. Field research conducted under the patronage of
J. Pierpont Morgan. Cambridge, Mass. 1907-1930
Together 40 volumes. Text in 20 volumes, Supplementary large plates in 20 portfolios.
large folio. Text in original publisher’s brown half morocco gilt, top edges gilt, others uncut, most stamp-signed by H. Blackwell.
Porfolios in original half morocco, Original cloth ties.
Provenance: Acquired by Edmund D. Brooks on behalf of the Minneapolis Athenaeum.
Down payment made in 1907. Final folios delivered in 1930 upon completion of the series by Curtis.
Portfolio: Binding. Some rubbing and wear, a few repairs. Some ties lacking.
Plates: Inkstamp of the Minneapolis Athenaeum on versos of each plate (on rectos of a handful of plates in port. 1.) perforated stamp on titles of some volumes. Some scattered marginal darkening, remnants of old mounting points at corners on versos of some plates.
Text: Bindings: Some rubbing, some wear at extremities. Plates: perforated stamps in volumes 1-5. ink stamps on versos of plates in remaining volumes.
LIMITED EDITION: number 123 of 500 proposed sets. Probably only 272 sets were produced.
This set on Van Gelder paper.
The 500 sets planned were never completed. An estimated 272 sets were finished, many of which have been broken up, while an estimated 85 remain in institutional collections. 3 issues were produced:
One printed on Van Gelder paper. Another on Japan vellum. And the last issue on Japanese tissue.
40 sets were issued on tissue and the remaining sets were split relatively evenly between vellum and Van Gelder. Many sets exhibiting a mixture of 2 or more types.
The present set is printed entirely on Van Gelder paper. November 18th, 2015 Insurance Appraisal by Christies Appraisals, Inc. 20 Rockefeller Center, New York, NY $900,000.00
Thomas McKenney and James Hall
History of the Indian Tribes of North America
Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall
First folio Edition. Volume 1 published by E.C. Biddle, Philadelphia. 1836.
Volumes 2 & 3 published by D. Rice and J.G. Clark. 1842-44.
Publication dates: 1836-1844. 3 volumes Hardcover.
Three front pieces after Peter Rindisbacher and Karl Bodmer and 117 portrait plates after Henry Inman’s copies of the original oil paintings mostly by Charles Bird King. Drawn on stone by Albert Newsam, Alfred Hoffy, Ralph Tremblay, Henry Dacre and others.
Printed and colored by J.T. Bowen and others.
In commissioning the “Indian Tribes of North America McKenney aimed to educate the American public about these great warriors and chiefs and to preserve them for posterity in a series of beautiful portraits. Most of the original oil portraits were painted from life in the studio of Charles Bird King to whom McKenney brought many of the subjects. The rest were copied from watercolors executed in the field by a young frontier artist named James Otto Lewis.
The finished portraits resided in the Smithsonian until 1865 when fire consumed the institution and destroyed most of the paintings. As a result the folio is particularly valuable in the faithful recording of the features and dress of celebrated American Indians who lived and died long before the age of photography.
Giovanni Piranesi (1720-1778)
LE ANTICHITA ROMANE
First edition Bouchard and Gravier, Rome 1756. 4 Volumes
The Antiquities of Rome by Giambattista Piranesi, Venetian Architect
Antichita Romane is the key to Piranesi’s ideal archaeological work. Publication of Antichita Romane had offered him the occasion to set forth a fundamental method so that subsequent volumes while revealing new archaeological discoveries were motivated primarily by a polemical attitude driven by his need to fend off the vigorous objections and opposing theses that this monumental work did not fail to provoke.
Antichita Romane itself was based on Piranesi’s certainty that his own thesis would prevail in the old debate on the primacy of Roman over Greek architecture.
Luigi Ficacci: PIRANESI The Complete Etchings.