Thursday, October 07, 2004

Rare Aesop book sells for £16,675

A 15th Century copy of fables by Aesop, the mythical pre-Christian story-teller has been sold at auction for £16,675.

The edition of Aesop's Vita et Fabulae - Life-story and fables - was published in Italy in 1497 and is one of only three known to exist.

The estimated sale price was estimated at between £2,000-£3,000, but finally closed at £14,500. A buyer's premium was added to the cost.

The buyer was named as antiquarian book sellers Quaritch.

'Hare and tortoise'

They saw off top American trader David Waxman in what was described as an Aesop-style bidding war in which the roles were reversed.

Auctioneer Chris Albury, from Dominic Winter Book Auctions in Swindon, said: "We had a 'hare and tortoise' bidding situation and, unlike Aesop's famous fable, the hare won.

"The tortoise was an American who was very, very slow all the way through, but the UK bidder came in late and quick and won on the day."

The book has four pages missing from the back owing to a "binder's error", which detracted from its value.

Until recently only two copies of this edition were listed on an official bibliography of 15th Century Literature.

One of those is in Milan, and another in Florence. One of these copies is perfect, while the other has just one page missing.

The third was discovered when Anthony Crane, the Bath-based grandson of Walter Crane, the Victorian illustrator arranged to sell items from his private library.