1737 German Celestial & Terrestrial Atlas by Joann Baptist Homann

Value (2008) | $8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
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GUEST:
About 20 years ago, an elderly lady friend of my wife gave it to me as a gift because she knew I enjoyed books and that I could read German. I really know very little about it except that I know that's it a German atlas from the 1700s.

APPRAISER:
Right, 1737 is the date. And it was published in Nuremberg. It's the work of Joann Baptist Homann. Homann was one of the most important map engravers and publishers in Germany at this period. And the thing that makes this unusual-- it's not your everyday atlas-- it's a celestial atlas, an atlas of the sky, which is a very specialized type.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And let's have a look at some of the interior pages. All the color here on these pages was applied by hand at great expense and lots of labor. One very unusual feature of it is the ink that's used on these stars. Every single star is illuminated in gold.

GUEST:
That's amazing.

APPRAISER:
This is a representation of the northern sky with all the familiar constellations-- Ursa Major, the great bear; Leo the lion. They're beautifully engraved and then enhanced by the application of all these delicate shades of watercolor. There's a very bright orange. Very characteristic of German coloring from this period. Let's look at another page. Here's the Great Bear, looking particularly fierce. Hercules, you get a little bit of his leg. Here's Perseus.

GUEST:
Perseus, right.

APPRAISER:
And they're just exquisitely portrayed. And, for it's time-- 1737-- this was a very modern scientific atlas. Let's look at something else. It looks like a normal representation of the globe.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
But when you look over here, what do you see?

GUEST:
I think that's California depicted as an island.

APPRAISER:
You're absolutely right. And that was a testimony to the fact that the exploration of the earth was still going on in 1737.

GUEST:
Sure.

APPRAISER:
A lot of people were convinced that you could sail around California. Now, I can give you an idea of what an auction estimate would be. I think it would be $8,000 to $12,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my.

APPRAISER:
And it would be a little higher, but there's some staining at the back. If you did remove the plates, some of these would sell for as much as $2,000 apiece.

GUEST:
No kidding.

APPRAISER:
The sum of the parts would be greater than an overall appraisal might yield.

GUEST:
Is that right?

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

GUEST:
That's amazing.

APPRAISER:
But I hope you don't break it up.

GUEST:
Thank you. It's wonderful.

APPRAISER:
Thanks for bringing it in.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, NY
Appraised value (2008)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Event
Grand Rapids, MI (August 09, 2008)
Period
18th Century
Form
Atlas
Material
Ink, Paper

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