Rare books come in all shapes and formats, and they don’t have to be written by a famous author or published by an influential press. Last month’s most expensive sales on AbeBooks includes a guest book from the Castello Bar at the Castle Schloss Mondsee near Salzburg in Austria. It belonged to Countess Micheline Almeida (1911-2000), whose family used to own the property, now an upmarket hotel.
Bound in red leather, the guest book - which sold for $11,900 - is signed by an amazing array of famous people. It even features some bars of music for the song, The Hills are Alive, from The Sound of Music, which was filmed in and around Salzburg in 1964. The book has been signed by the movie’s director Robert Wise, and the stars, Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews, and dated April and May 1964. It was sold by longtime AbeBooks seller Kurt Gippert from Chicago.
Other signatures in the guest book include the Prince of Liechtenstein Franz Josef II, actor Tony Curtis, socialite Brooke Astor, boxer Gene Tunney, actresses Natalie Wood and Greta Garbo, actor Jack Lemmon, poet W. H. Auden, actor Burt Lancaster, comedian Peter Sellers, British politician Harold Wilson, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa, motor racing driver Niki Lauda, the Aga Khan, pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Looney Tunes artist Chuck Jones, many opera and ballet performers, numerous European aristocrats and other notable people.
Castle Schloss Mondsee began life as a Benedictine abbey and was founded in 748. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The Almeida family sold the property in 1985 and it became a hotel in 2001.
Our list also includes an historic textbook from 1788 that has had a lasting influence on mathematics. Sounds a bit dull? Not at all. Méchanique Analitique by Joseph Louis Lagrange sold for $13,112. Born in Italy, Lagrange became a famous academic in France and Germany, and managed to survive the French Revolution despite the carnage surrounding him.
Méchanique Analitique advanced analytical mechanics beyond the work of Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei. He wrote the book while in Berlin where he was director of mathematics at the Prussian Academy of Sciences. It was his greatest piece of work, although he contributed widely to mathematics and astronomy. He laid down the principle of being able to deduce the mechanics of solid objects and also fluids through formulae. Students of calculus around the world owe much to Lagrange.
Lagrange became a favorite of Napoleon Bonaparte and helped define France's system of weights and measures. When all foreigners were ordered to leave France, he received special exemption.
March's most expensive sale was a massive collection of The Gentleman's Magazine – 116 volumes in total – that sold for $26,083. The magazine was first published in 1731 and offered news, fiction and comment on the key matters of the day.
Our list also includes separate analysis of musical theory and the oceans, some historic poetry, Le Morte d'Arthur and a beautiful book of hours.
3. Guest Book for the Castello Bar at the Castle Schloss Mondsee Near Salzburg Austria - $11,900
Castle Schloss Mondsee, now an upmarket hotel, began life as a Benedictine abbey and was founded in 748. This guest book is full of famous signatures, including Burt Lancaster, Greta Garbo, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
4. Musicæ Compendium by René Descartes - $6,500
Published in 1650, this first edition of Descartes' first work was written when he was just 22 but not published until after his death. The book is a treatise on music theory and the aesthetics of music.
5 Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane by Alfred Wegener - $6,319
The Origin of Continents and Oceans was published in 1915 and is a first edition copy of Wegener's work on continental drift; a theory which he helped advance but was controversial at the time of publication
8. Le Livre d'Heures de la Reine Anne de Bretagne by M. l'abbe Delaunay - $4,750
Published in 1841, this was a chromolithograph reproduction of the Book of Hours commissioned by Anne of Brittany in the early 16th century. Anne's Book of Hours contained 476 pages with 49 full page miniatures, 12 calendar pages, and 337 pages of illuminated boarders depicting flowers and plants; it is considered to be one of the most lavish book of hours ever created.
9. Recueils de jolis vers & chansons 1779 Manuscrit - $4,555
Published in 1779, this collection of beautiful songs was written by a family in Versailles to contain madrigals, puzzles, portraits and songs familiar to most Parisian salons.
10. The New Encyclopedia Britannica - $4,486
Published in 32 volumes, this is the "Heirloom Edition" of the 2010 Encyclopedia Britannica.