On April 23, 2021, оne of the most significant and impressive private collections of rare manuscripts and early printed books collected by the New York philanthropists Elaine and Alexander P. Rosenberg will be auctioned at Christi's in New York. According to Christie's press release, the books, offered for sale, "represent the culmination of 15th and 16th-century European manuscript painting."

Senior specialist in medieval and renaissance manuscripts at Christie's London office Eugenio Donadoni noted that "it's one of the best collections to come to market in decades and one of the best we've ever offered."

Some of the volumes previously have been part of the libraries of the most important collectors like the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, British newspaper proprietor Henry Yates Thompson, an American businessman and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hirst, businessman Alfred Chester-Bitty, English merchant banker, and famous Book collector Henry Huth.

The auction will feature more than 200 volumes in their original binding, printed in the 15th century, includes Books of Hours, mostly written on vellum, of the early 16th century. The sale of the collection is expected to raise more than $8 million.

According to the collector's wishes, all profits from the auction will go to selected museums to support their rare book collections departments.

Unique collection lots

The top lot of the collection, as ARTnews noted, is a French illuminated manuscript on vellum, known as Parisian Book of Hours, executed around 1440 by the mysterious Master of the Paris Bartholomeus Anglicus. The document holds 16 small paintings. The book is lavishly decorated with gold and silver, thus testifying its original owners' wealth and discernment.

According to preliminary expert estimates, it is expected to be sold for $1.5-2.5 million.

Another unique lot is a small prayer book, The Charles V Book of Hours, written by the painter Gerard Horenbut for Charles V around 1510. This book of exquisite miniatures and figurative borders is tentatively valued at $800,000 to $1.2 million.

In addition to these volumes, the collection includes such rare items as:

- first edition of the complete works of Plato, which was translated by Marsilio Ficino and printed by the nuns of San Jacopo di Ripoli in 1484-1485.

- an exceptional Book of Hours painted with delicacy and flamboyance by the Master of Jean de Mauleon, one of the Bellemare group of artists in 1525.

- a marvelous Book of Hours, created by one of the most sought-after Parisian illuminators of the late 15th century, the Master of Jacques de Besançon.

- a charming The Hours of François Le Clerc lavishly illuminated by the Master of Cardinal de Bourbon for the Le Clerc family: barons of La Forêt-Le-Roi, La Motte, Luzarches and later Fleurigny, and seigneurs of Chaumont and Givry.

Elaine and Alexandre P. Rosenberg

Alexandre Rosenberg is the well-known founding president of the Art Dealers Association of America. His father was a notable French art dealer Paul Rosenberg who represented modern art giants such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque. They worked together, and after Paul's death, Alexandre became the company's principal.

Together with his wife Elaine, he worked hard to recover art looted from his family by the Nazis during World War II. After Alexander died in 1987, Elaine continued the work on it. In many cases, the Rosenberg spouses were successful.

Elaine Rosenberg was an active and influential Fellow of The Morgan Library. She remained deeply involved with the Museum of Modern Art and The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She passed away in 2020.