The Cinematography of Henri Alekan

You may not have heard of him (I certainly hadn’t) but Alekan was a French cinematographer, who was born in 1909 (in Monmartre, Paris) and died in 2001. He started life as a travelling puppeteer (with his brother) but was drawn to Cinema. Hi directorial debut was René Clément’s realistic war drama La Bataille du Rail of 1946. He also worked on the fairytale fantasy film La Belle et la Bête (directed by Jean Cocteau), widely cited as one of the best fantasy films of all time.


After filming a number of French films, he found he did not agree with the French New Wave cinema of the 1950’s, and so he found himself in Hollywood.


Later directors appreciated his style, and he was in vogue once more, he worked with Raúl Ruiz on The Territory and On Top of the Whale and with Wim Wenders on The State Of Things and Wings of Desire. This latter film, was shot in West Berlin, and tells the story of a guardian angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist. It was interesting, as Alekan shot the film in both colour and Sepia tones – the latter showing the world as seen by the angels.


Alekan also wrote one of the best books about cinematography Des lumières et des ombres (1984, Éditions du Collectionneur)  


This week we have a range of items connected with Alekan in one auction – including original negatives and prints from La Belle et la Bete, Scripts and camera scripts with negatives attached showing camera angles, posters, cameras used by Alekan, and even a model of a theatre to work out how camera angles worked. 


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Fabulous Musical Autographs

This wonderful Liber Amicorum (or Friends Book) is essentially an autograph album, but as it belonged to one of the nineteenth centuries leading tenors, Pietro Neri-Baraldi, it is far more than that. It is a record of who’s who in his musical circle.

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Being a musician, naturally he chose a musical score as the basis for his album, and he then obtained snatches of music, annotations and signatures from many of the leading musicians of his day. The most famous today is Rossini, but the album also includes work by Bottesini, Coppola, Peri, Costa, Meyerbeer, Bolzoni, Gordigiani, Auteri Manzocchi, Mancinelli, Auber, Cossoul, Bazzini, Marchetti, Ponchielli, Gomes, Mazzucato, Faccio, Capulani, Gounod, Coronaro, Thomson, Valetta, Martucci, Catalani, Mascheroni, Heckmann, Clementi, Perosi, Richter, and Fischer.

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The album itself is a luxurious green morocco with gilt details. The opera singer was born in Minerbio near Bologna, after debuting at the Teatro Comunale of Bologna in 1850, began a bright career that led him to cover many tenor roles and was in contact with the greatest musicians at the time, such as Rossini, Meyerbeer, Gounod, Perosi, Gomes and many many more.

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792 – 1868) was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as some sacred music, songs, chamber music, and piano pieces. His best-known operas was the comedy,  The Barber of Seville 
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During his career, which reached its peak with his appointment as first tenor at the Sao Carlos in Lisbon, directly nominated by the King Louis I of Portugal, he jealously kept this precious booklet and collected autographs of the musicians whose operas he sang. The result is this wonderful piece of musical history that includes, like a treasure box, little gems of memory of the greatest musicians of the second half of the 19th century.

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Beautiful Japanese Souvenir Album


japan2This lovely album, from around 1875,  features 50 original large format Japanese coloured albumen photographs by the Japanese studios of the photographers Enami Nobukini, Kusakabe Kimbei, Yamamoto and various, called “Japan Souvenir Album”.

This album is exceptional for the quality and the exceptional conservation of the prints whose contrast, tones and colours are close to perfection, (apart from the first and the last pages which have scattered foxing).


It also includes the photograph “Windy and Rainy day” by Kusakabe Kimbei, well known for having made the cover of the reference books on Japanese photography by Terry Bennett, “Early japanese images” and “Photography in Japan.” (This is our featured image, above.)

japan9Views of Japan, scenes from everyday life, geishas, ​​the first dish of the album in black lacquer and gold lacquer and polychrome, inlaid Futen (God of the wind) running away a woman and her child in the storm (ornaments in ivory), the 4th dish decorated with insects.

The photographs are mounted front and back on cardboard pages with golden slices.
Rarely for sale.

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The Big Bang Pilot signed by Sheldon himself

Since it was first broadcast in 2007, The Big Bang Theory has been one of the most popular sitcoms to come out of the USA.  Everyone loves Sheldon and his friends. The show is a triumph of geekdom. It is not often that the lead role in a show is played by a physicist with Asperger syndrome. Much less a comedy, and then one where the geeks are the heroes, and somehow always come out ok (if not exactly on top).
Here we have a signed copy of the script of the first ever episode – the pilot.
After reading the pilot script, Parsons felt that the role of Sheldon Cooper would be a very good fit for him.  Although he did not feel any sort of relationship with the character, he was enchanted by the dialogue structure, the way the writers “brilliantly use those words that most of us don’t recognise to create that rhythm. And the rhythm got me. It was the chance to dance through that dialogue, and in a lot of ways still is.” (wikipedia)
In his audition, Parsons so impressed series creator Chuck Lorre that Lorre insisted on a second audition to see if Parsons could replicate the performance. Parsons was cast as Sheldon Cooper, a physicist with Asperger syndrome, who frequently belittles his friends and the waitress who lives across the hall


This will probably be your only chance to own an actual script – signed by the main character. Being the pilot episode is the cherry on the cake. Just think – you can be almost as excited as Sheldon was when Penny gave him a serviette signed by Leonard Nimoy for Christmas.

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Not a gnome in sight with these gnomonical works

If someone offered you a rare collection of Gnomonical works by The Vicar of the Convent of Saint Francesco at Turin, you would be forgiven for thinking it may contain illustrations of small bearded creatures holding fishing rods.

But in fact gnomology is the study of sundials, and specifically the angle of the shadows cast by the vertical rod. (You see – you can learn something from this blog).

What is particularly lovely with these works, apart from their scarcity, are the cut-out diagrams laid onto the illustrations to demonstrate angles.


As well as helping you to work out the angles of the sun (and so work out the time) one of the cut out additions helps you to look at the zodiac and work out the astronomical signs.


Here are the details of the two works:

CANTONE, GIROLAMO. Nuovo, e facil modo di fare horologi solari, orizontali, e verticali a tutte l’eleuationi di polo. Turin: per l’herede del Colonna a spese di Gio. Battista Vernoni, 1688.
CANTONE, GIROLAMO. Modo di fare horologi portatili a sole, luna, e stelle sopra colonelle, croci, medaglie, e scatolini. Turin: Giuseppe Vernoni, per gli heredi di Carlo Gianelli, 1682.

4to (282 x 231 mm), modern leather over wood boards, red morocco labels with titles at spine, pp. 32 for first volume, pp. 40 (lacking title page and dedication to reader, provided in facsimile), for second volume. Text in Italian.




Rare manuals to study, design and realize sundials, and portable dials, to be used with sun, moon and stars.

These works were not only meant to be a theoretical treatise, but also act as practical manuals. In the introduction of the first work, Cantone lists all the tools needed to realise the objects he described in the manuals.

The first opera, the 1688 Nuovo e facil modo di far horologi solari, is a rare gnomonical work by the vicar of the convent of S. Francesco at Turin CANTONE. The title page states that it is the ‘seconda impresione’, second edition, the first being the Nuouo, e facil modo di fare col quadrante geometrico horologi solari, orizontali, e verticali a tutte l’elevationi di polo printed in 1670 which, though titled slightly differently, contains exactly the same number of pages.

Twelve years after the first edition, in the 1682 Cantone published the prosecution of the Horologi, solari, the Modo di fare horologi portatili, an earlier summation of the author’s knowledge on the specific subject of portable dials.
When he published the second edition of Horologi in 1688 the idea was to add to the opera the second edition of Modo di fare horologi portatili, but this second edition, for unknown reason, was never printed.

To have a complete set of Cantone’s works, an unknown owner decided to bound together in the present copy the second edition (1688) of Nuovo, e facil modo di fare horologi with the first edition (1682, the second never been printed) of Modo di fare horologi portatili
Both works are very scarce. Worldcat records only 6 copies of the first work and 9 copies of the second.
SBN/It records two variant collations of the 1682 publication, A and B. The present copy corresponds with A. No auction sale of either work is recorded in RBH or ABPC.

CONDITION: Title to first work lightly soiled and repaired at margins, both works repaired at lower corners, second work lacks p1 and A1 title provided in facsimile, several leaves with repaired holes.

PROVENANCE: applied geometrical section in a contemporary hand to two diagrams.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Vol 1: Houzeau and Lancaster 11519 and 11533; Riccardi I, 228,1 not in BL. Vol II: Houzeau & Lancaster 11333 and 11542; Riccardi I, 228,2; Turner (ed.) Ritmi del cielo e misura del tiempo 93. KVK: no copy in Germany or Switzerland; COPAC: NL Scotland (1670 & 1688 ed.); Oxford (1670; 1682 ed.).

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A Beautiful description of America

This week we’re proud to present the first italian edition of Il Gazzettiere americano, printed in Livorno by Marco Coltellini in 1763.

It is the first edition translated from the original The American Gazetteer, printed in London the year before, in 1762 by Millar & Tonson.

The Italian edition is bound in three folio volumes, profusely adorned by a large number of full-page copper plates.

It’s a sort of Americana encyclopedia that covers every aspect of the American continent: climate, trade, products, forms of government, city, geography, people and customs. The parts dedicated to fauna and flora are also excellent and accurate.

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We have 78 plates, engraved by Violante Vanni and Giuseppe Pazzi (from drawings by Ferdinando Gregori and Veremondo Rossi). These engravings provide a complex and all-embracing description of the “new world”. The subjects are natural history, geography, animals, architecture and costumes.


The added value of this Italian edition is in the plates. The original edition, beyond its minor format, had only eight engravings in the text.

Coltellini wanted to enlarge his edition to make it a valuable and sumptuous printing work.

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Marco Coltellini was, in fact, a really good publisher. He started this job when he left his ecclesiastical studies. In 1762 he bought the most important typography / bookstore in Livorno, All’ “Insegna della verità”, which became soon one of the most important productive activity of the city.


The Gazzettiere was one of his first efforts and we can well see how his technique was refined since he started printing books.


Coltellini is also famous for having printed the first clandestine edition of Beccaria’s Dei delitti e delle pene and the third edition of the Encyclopédie.

At the same time he was also a renowned poet.


This specific copy is in really fine condition, bound in full vellum with gold titles at the spines, heavy paper at large edges.

Obviously complete with all 78 plates and pp. XXXIII, [1], 216, [2] – 256, [2] – pp. 253, [3].

It finally has a good provenance, coming from one of the most ancient bookstores in Italy.

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Josephine Baker illustrated by Paul Colin – a fabulous pictorial memoir of the Jazz Age


One of 300 numbered copies (number 216). Very rare and early publication about Josephine Baker, who was only 21 when this work, her “Mémoires” was published. By then she had been in Paris for two years and had become a sensation in the Paris nightclubs such as the Folies Bergère.

The book contains 32 very stylish (coloured) illustrations/plates by Paul Colin.

Colin was a famous illustrator of the “Black Craze” as Jazz became known in Paris. His beautiful 1920’s illustrations capture the trend perfectly.


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