GÜNTHER Two items stand out to me. One, the Stammheim Missal (1170-1180), now resides in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I acquired it from a German noble family who had owned it for around 200 years, and sold it in the mid-1990s to the Getty. I still think it’s the best manuscript in their collection. Another favorite is the 10th-century Etymologiae written by Isidore of Seville. In the 19th century, a collector split the book into two parts, the second of which was passed down to a European collector. This collector came to me in the hope that we might find the first part and reunite the two. The missing half was found, and after 200 years, it was rebound and complete again.
TENSCHERT Having privately bought an incredibly rich 14th-century Book of Hours, illuminated throughout and with 60 (!) full-page miniatures by the so-called Martainville Master, we found out that this must have been the personal prayer book of Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. The manuscript sold immediately. I can’t share the name of the buyer or the price, only that it is an American customer. Americans are waking up to this kind of collectible.
Advice for starting a rare-book collection?
SHAPERO The only advice to any collector, in every field, is buy what you like. This does not mean that you should not do your research or educate yourself in this field — in fact, this is essential — but that however the value moves, up or down, you will always have that love and appreciation of what you own.
TENSCHERT Buy only the most beautiful object you can afford, weed out anything run-of-the-mill or in poor condition. As a lover of books, I must tell you to please keep away from single miniatures, let alone cuttings which remind you only of their being the slaughterhouse waste of once-complete manuscripts.
CLAVREUIL Whatever the budget is, visit as many bookshops as you can and meet the experts in order to figure out the kind of collection you want to build. Trust and learn from booksellers.
GÜNTHER There is no set of rules for collecting, but be clear in your motivations. You can decide that you only want books from one period, or one geographical region, then you can refine your eye through specific study. It’s possible to build a collection at any budget (within reason) and it will be something special if it has been driven by your passion.