London, Nov 29 (AFP/APP):Ed Maggs examines a shelf of leather-bound antique books that his family have been selling from their landmark London shop for the last 170 years.
It was at Maggs Bros. Ltd that a Bolivian diplomat acquired two volumes of “Don Quixote”, the Spanish epic novel by Miguel de Cervantes, which are now up for auction.
The books go on sale in Paris on December 14, where they are expected to fetch between 400,000 and 600,000 euros ($414,000 to $621,000) combined.
They were last bought in the 1930s by diplomat, Jorge Ortiz Linares, who was subsequently Bolivia’s ambassador to France in the 1940s.
He was the son-in-law of Simon Patino, a Bolivian industrialist living in Paris, who made his vast fortune in tin mining in the early 20th century.
Ortiz was an avid collector and was on the hunt for an original edition of “Don Quixote”, which many consider to be the first modern novel.
The tale of a poor Spanish gentleman who reads so many chivalric romances that he thinks he is a knight was a huge success when it was published in 1605.
In the 1930s, Ortiz’s research led him to the British capital, which Maggs describes as “arguably the most important centre for the rare book trade” in the world.
– ‘Real fortune’ –
Maggs is the great-great-grandson of Uriah Maggs, who founded the bookstore in 1853.
Over the years, it gained a reputation among British royalty and exiled monarchs such as Manuel II of Portugal and Spain’s Alfonso XIII.
The bookshop, now in Bedford Square near University College London and the British Museum, came to own 1,358 rare editions of Spanish-language books.
They were collected in a catalogue published in 1927 “still quoted by bibliographers today”, says Jonathan Reilly, an expert on the Maggs bookshop.
Reilly points to one of the works that caught Ortiz’s eye: two first editions of “Don Quixote” — Book I, published in 1605, and Book II, which came out 10 years later.
Both were on sale for �3,500 — the equivalent of nearly �174,000 ($210,000) — and “a real fortune at the time”, he added.
Ortiz, however, was out of luck and found that the books had already been sold. But he left his details just in case.