Rare Tudor Science Books Estimated to Fetch £30,000 at Auction

Friday 25th March 2022 - Cara Bentham


Rare Tudor Science Books Estimated to Fetch £30,000 at Auction

Read more about the Thomas Blundeville works up for sale!

After being found blocking a leaky thatch roof, a set of scarce Tudor science books have been put up for auction with an estimate of £20,000 to £30,000. The collection includes a book written by English writer and mathematician Thomas Blundeville, famous for having invented the protractor, a tool still commonly used in classrooms today.

The sammelband is a collection of texts which were separately printed and bound together at a later date. It contains ten rare scientific works and retains its contempered binding. The books were discovered in a location they had had quite possibly been for centuries – under straw-covered thatching and bird poo in a property in North Wiltshire.

In 1716 the collection was sold for five shillings but could fetch a small fortune when it goes under the hammer next month. Printed well into the reign of Elizabeth 1 in 1589, the text written by Thomas Blundeville may alone be worth £20,000. The work is entitled 'A Briefe Description of Universal Mappes and Cardes, and of Their Use: and also of the use of Ptholemey his Tables'. Other famous authors included in the works are Leonard Digges and Edward Wright.

According to Chris Albury of Dominic Winter Auctioneers, the texts were owned by a Viscount Campden. The sammelband was subsequently sold on, retaining signatures of later owners, including Robert Winkles in 1716 and Thomas Banning in 1817. The title page of the first text contains two additional signatures of previous owners from the 17th century, including V.W and Robert Hillary.

Albury said of the text, "When I first suggested the auction estimate of £15,000 to £20,000, the owners were gobsmacked and over the moon. Each book is rare, and some of them very, very rare. I had to collate it carefully to see what was missing before coming up with a valuation and I was staggered to find how complete it is and how careful the binder had been. The binder has been sensitive enough to trim around these occasional larger page extensions and fold the edges into the text. I don't know if my estimate will turn out to be a massive underestimate but it's certainly very special."

Another notable text in the collection is a work by Thomas Hill, which rejects Copernicanism. This is the belief that the Earth and other planets in the solar system orbit the sun. This text is significant because Thomas Hill was one of just two astronomers in the 16th century to oppose this theory. Hill also includes descriptions of areas largely undiscovered by Europeans when the texts were written, such as Peru and America.

Another significant text, written by Leonard Digges, supports the idea of the universe being infinite. This text stands out for its inclusion of complete diagrams to support the theory – a feature absent from most surviving copies of the text.

A copy of one of the texts in the collection, written by Thomas Blundeville, was last sold at auction in New York back in 2007, where it fetched over £54,000.

The collection will go under the hammer on April 6th at Dominic Winter Auctioneers.