Sotheby’s to show rare pieces of Middle Eastern history at Riyadh International Book Fair

First edition manuscripts, a globe from 1840 and photos of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979 will be displayed

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Sotheby’s will showcase a specially curated selection of rare and collectable books, manuscripts, photographs and objects at the Riyadh International Book Fair — many of which will be exhibited in Saudi Arabia for the first time.

The event, which begins on Thursday, aims to raise awareness of knowledge, culture, literature and art through conferences, workshops and seminars with the presence of Arab and international publishing houses and institutions. It is a partnership between the international auction house and the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture.

“As a specialist in books on exploration and travel, I often have the pleasure of viewing incredibly rare photographs and maps,” says Richard Fattorini, Sotheby’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts.

“We are excited to bring to Riyadh an exhibition of some of the most desirable pieces in the field, ranging from the historically significant and magnificently bound, to beautiful objects boasting prestigious provenance.”

Items on display include a monumental World Globe dating to 1840. Created by John Addison and G&J Cary, considered the greatest globe makers of the day, the Victorian piece measures 91 centimetres in diameter and shows the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, and the pilgrimage port of Jeddah.

Another map on show details the geology of the Arabian Peninsula dating to 1963. The detailed map was compiled as part of a project by the US Geological Survey and Arabian American Oil Company, under the joint sponsorship of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and US Department of State.

An album of rare photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979 will also be on display. Taken during their six-nation tour of Gulf States, the group of 39 photographs includes the queen and Prince Philip's official welcome by King Khalid of Saudi Arabia and their attendance at several events including camel racing in the desert.

A painting of a falcon by artist Nicholas Manning from 2018 will be among the fine art portion of exhibition. Seldom releasing paintings for sale through the market, this is a rare chance to see his work in public.

Other highlights from Sotheby's include a folio of prints depicting 19th century Egypt by acclaimed British painter David Roberts, a first edition of illustrations depicting life-size birds by German ornithologist Hermann Schlegel and the first edition of L'Art Arabe d'apres les monuments du Kaire (1869-1877), one of the most important manuscripts of the 19th century devoted to Islamic art.

The Riyadh International Book Fair takes place from Thursday until October 8.

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Updated: September 28, 2022, 10:02 AM