The First Printed Atlas

An Unusual Perspective on Britain

Please click here to view the full catalogue online.

One of the first printed atlases, Cosmographia, showing a Greco-Roman interpretation of Britain, will be offered in Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions' Important Books sale on Monday 19th May at their saleroom in London's Mayfair, alongside an illuminated manuscript Book of Hours and works from Wordsworth's library.

The distorted map of Britain from the Cosmographia, 1490, was conceived alongside others of the whole Roman Empire by Greco-Roman astrologer, mathematician and writer Claudius Ptolemaeus.

Ptolemy's Cosmographia was a ground-breaking treaty that challenged medieval map-making and revolutionised cartography. Medieval maps at the time were created to reflect the importance of landmarks and powerful cities were often disproportionately portrayed against their surroundings, irrespective of their actual size. Ptolemy's Cosmographia used mathematical calculations in an attempt to create accurate representations of the land, thus changing map-making for centuries to come.

This rare survivor is the fifth edition of Ptolemy's work which is spilt into two parts. Book one is a thorough discussion on the geography of the Greco-Roman Empire, and the second book is a compilation of maps. The work, complete with 27 copper-engraved maps of the known world, is estimated at £70,000-90,000. [Lot 10]

Also originating from the medieval period is a fine illuminated manuscript from 1490. This Book of Hours was produced on commission on a greater scale than any other book during the medieval period and played a vital role in the late Medieval and Renaissance cult of the virgin.

This highly collectible and unique private devotional is exceedingly popular with collectors and is estimated to achieve £20,000-30,000. [Lot 1]

Later examples of printed books of hours, which began to replace the manuscript versions after the invention of printing in the mid 15th century, illustrated with hand-illuminated woodcuts and decorations are also represented in the sale by Heures a Lusaige de Romme, 1521, estimated at £20,000-30,000 [Lot 3] and Hore beate marie secundum usum Romanium, 1507, estimated at £6,000-8,000. [Lot 2]

Elsewhere in the auction is a collection of three books which once belonged to William Wordsworth. They are bound in decorative cloth coverings, known as 'Cottonian bindings', in order to improve their visual appeal. One of these is Henry Holland's Some Account of the Life and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, 1806, bearing a presentation inscription 'From the Author' together with Wordsworth's ink signature to title.

The British Library holds a copy with similar provenance that purports to have been bound by Dorothy Wordsworth herself, leading the auctioneer to believe that this example may also have been bound by Wordsworth's wife. This book is offered alongside John Dunton's two volume work The Life and Errors of John Dunton, 1818, once belonging to Wordsworth's friend and contemporary Robert Southey (bearing his ink ownership inscriptions). The three works are together estimated at £500-700 [Lot 94]

Also included in the sale is Wordsworth's personal copy of his Yarrow Revisited and other Poems, 1835, with a signed inscription reading 'Wm Wordsworth, Rydal Mount, 21st April -36'. It is estimated at £1,000-1,500 [Lot 98]

The auction will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions' London saleroom in Mayfair on Monday 19th May, with viewing from Wednesday - Saturday, 14th - 18th May. The catalogue and details of online bidding with no additional fee can be found online at


Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions are a UK 'top 5' auctioneer of fine art and collectibles. As part of Stanley Gibbons we are the only UK stock-exchange listed firm of auctioneers and occupy the same stable as coin specialists Baldwin's, and Frasers Autograph's. Established in 1759, we have the broadest and most regular calendar of specialist catalogued sales in the industry, numbering over 150 per annum, and provide vendors and buyers alike access to market-leading specialist advice in any number of collecting fields. We operate from salerooms in Donnington Priory (near Newbury), London's Mayfair, Bristol and Godalming.

London - 30th April 2014