Books and manuscripts take center stage at the Wannenes auction in May

Excellent outcome for the first Books and Manuscripts auction held on May 30, 2023, in the splendid spaces of Palazzo Carrega – Cataldi, Wannenes’ new location in Genoa. The auction totaled €531,975 in two sessions, with a lot sold percentage of 92% and a value sold percentage of 273%.

The number of individual buyers is also remarkable, with 140 participants, including a strong percentage of international clients, indicating the department’s ability to reach a wide audience of collectors and industry professionals.


The absolute protagonist of the catalog is a rare and significant testament to American history: John Mitchell’s “Map of the British and French dominions in North America,” printed in 1755. This map depicts cities, counties, American provinces, frontier settlements, forts, roads, Indian villages, and early exploration routes, including some battlefields. After intense bidding, it was sold for €137,500 (lot 247).

Giovan Battista Piranesi secures the second spot with €25,000 for “Le antichità romane” printed in Rome in 1756, considered the most important work of the Roman genius, establishing him as the principal interpreter of Roman archaeology (lot 208).

From the renowned Aldine Press of Aldus Manutius, two rare editions from 1497 on medical subjects by academician Lorenzo Maioli secured the third position, selling for €21,250 (lot 103). Also notable is the first edition of Poliziano’s “Opera Omnia” printed in 1494 by the refined Venetian publisher, which is particularly prized for preserving the original wooden boards and comes from Walter Ashburner’s collection. It was acquired for €18,750 (lot 134).

The fifth complete edition (printed between 1881 and 1886) of Goya’s “Los Caprichos,” featuring 80 grotesque plates aiming to expose prevalent vices, baseness, aberrations, and superstitions in Spain, was sold for €12,500 (lot 186).

Other notable items include a bound copy of Giacomo della Torre di Forlì’s “Super primus Avicenne…in primum Avicenne Canonem expositio,” printed in Venice in 1520 by Lucantonio Giunta, which fetched €11,875 (lot 17). There is also the first edition of Simplicius’ commentaries on Aristotle, printed in Venice in 1526 by Aldus Manutius and Andrea Torresano, sold for €10,625 (lot 149).

The third edition of Giacomo Filippo Foresti’s “Supplementum chronicarum” printed in Venice by Bernardino Rizzo da Novara reached €8,750 (lot 59). Additionally, a magnificent 5-volume edition of Jean Claude Richard Saint-Non’s “Voyage pittoresque ou Description des royaumes de Naples et de Sicile” from 1781-1786, illustrating the artistic and natural splendors of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily with over 500 engravings by nearly seventy engravers in the spirit of the 18th-century Grand Tour.

Concluding with mention of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s letter to Giacomo Raselli, the podestà of Asolo and a former supporter of the Fiume enterprise, dated July 4, 1926 (lot 266), accompanied by three Buccellati tie pins. The letter begins, “My dear doctor, here are three drops of dew that I collected above the three baskets of fruit given to me and deftly tied by master Paragon Coppella…” The pins are from the renowned goldsmith Mario Buccellati, constituting an important D’Annunzio relic and a fragment of Italian goldsmithing history.


Riccardo Crippa, Head of the Department of Books and Manuscripts: “The auction was a great success and exceeded the initial expectations, demonstrating the remarkable work done in the preceding months to establish a department aspiring to become a reference point in the field. Overall, the sale reflects a trend observed in other sectors of the ancient art market, where the origin and collecting history of the works have an increasingly significant influence on the results. Analyzing the buyer data, there is a strong internationalization and a growing presence of private collectors compared to commercial operators. Regarding individual acquisitions, it is worth mentioning the exceptional result achieved by Mitchell’s Map of North America, setting a record price for this specific edition. Furthermore, the remarkable success of Buccellati’s tie pins, donated by D’Annunzio, testifies to the vibrancy of the national collecting scene. Now we look forward to the December auction with the goal of presenting an equally refined and diverse collection of volumes to our audience.”

The upcoming Wannenes auctions can be found at the link

Villa Carrega Cataldi
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