Pasiphaé by Henri Matisse
by Henri Matisse

A stunning book of illustrations by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) topped December’s most expensive sales on AbeBooks. Matisse’s interpretation of the Greek myth surrounding Pasiphaé is one of the most famous works from his later years.

In the story, Pasiphaé, daughter of Helios, marries Minos, the King of Crete. However, she is cursed by Poseidon and lusts after a white bull sent by the god of the sea. With a little help from the craftsman Daedalus, Pasiphaé has sex with the bull and gives birth to the infamous half-bull, half-human creature known as the Minotaur.

Matisse worked in linoleum to produce the artwork for Pasiphaé. Taking inspiration from ancient Greek ceramics, his simple flowing lines are memorable and the limited edition, signed copy is an art collector’s dream.

Our list also features all the Rudyard Kipling you will ever need, a bible, the writing of a scholarly monk, some wondrous artwork from Salvador Dali, poetry and a history of Leicestershire.


December’s Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks

Pasiphaé by Henri Matisse
by Henri Matisse

1. Pasiphaé by Henri Matisse - $30,000
A first edition from 1944, limited to 230 copies, and signed in pen by Matisse. The book contains 147 original linocuts.

2. The Works of Rudyard Kipling - $28,478
Kipling’s complete works, published as the Sussex Edition in 35 large octavo volumes by Macmillan in 1937.  This was a numbered set, limited to 525 copies, signed by the author on the limitation leaf.

3. La Bibbia Di Federico Da Montefeltro - $23,420
This is a reproduction (published in two volumes) of the Urbino Bible from the late 15th century which was originally found in the collection of Federico da Montefeltro (Duke of Urbino). This edition was published in a limited run of 500 numbered copies in 2003.  The miniatures from the original edition have been enlarged for greater effect. 

4.  Le Proprietaire des Choses Tresutille et Profitable aux Corps Humains by Bartholomaeus Anglicus - $11,244
Bartholomeus Anglicus (Bartholomew of England) was a 13th century scholar and a Franciscan monk who lived in Paris and wrote on a wide variety of topics.  This work, published around 1500, covers astronomy, medicine, geology, botany, zoology, geography and mineralogy.

Arcana Naturae Detecta by Anton Van Leeuwenhoek
Arcana Naturae Detecta
by Antonio Van Leeuwenhoek
5. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali - $9,250
Dali created 12 original illustrations to accompany Lewis Carroll’s classic story for this 1969 publication limited to 2,500 copies - all of which were signed by Dali.

6. Index to Choctaw - Chickasaw Deeds and Allotments by Edward Hastain - $9,000
Published in 1908, this three-volume set contains an alphabetical list of the members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes by blood as well as details on homestead status, legal description of their lands, and other vitals.  This was one of four Native American roll lists prepared by Hastain.

7. The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester by John Nichols - $8,862
This first edition set was published in four volumes from 1795 to 1815 (this set was re-bound in eight volumes).

8. Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley by Percy Bysshe Shelley - $8,500
Published as a limited edition (one of 250 copies) by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press in 1854, three volumes. 

9. Arcana Naturae Detecta by Antonio Van Leeuwenhoek - $7,767
A first edition published in 1695.  Leeuwenhoek was a pioneering microbiologists. He discovered protozoa and bacteria and was the first to describe spermatozoa and red blood corpuscles. 

10. Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopedia of the Ancient World by Hubert Cancik et al - $7,073
The English edition of the authoritative modern reference work for scholars concerned with the ancient world. Published in 15 volumes.

What is your favorite mythical story?

More to Explore:

Book Collecting Guide First editions Illuminated Manuscripts