Rare military collection auctioned at Sotheby’s

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Machiavelli, The Art of War (1521).
Machiavelli, The Art of War (1521). Photo: Sotheby’s.

A first edition of Machiavelli’s Libro dell’arte della guerra (The Art of War) has sold at auction for £150,000.

Published in Florence in 1521, it was estimated to be worth between £20,000 and £30,000.

The book is part of the Cottesloe Military Library, which comprises over 2,000 volumes of books and manuscripts on military theory, equipment, and techniques. The auction took place at Sotheby’s on 19 November.

It was assembled by the 3rd Lord Cottesloe (1862-1956), commander of the Territorial Army and President of the Society for Army History Research. An accomplished rifleman, his keen interest in the history of weaponry led to his vast collection.

nry Hexham, The Principles of the Art Militarie (1637). Photo: Sotheby's.
Henry Hexham, The Principles of the Art Militarie (1637). Photo: Sotheby’s.

Other highlights include Paris de Puteo’s Libro de re militari et de duello (1477-1478) and a copy of Henry Hexham’s

The Principles of the Art Militarie (1637), given to Charles II when he was Prince of Wales. Containing diagrams of orders of battle in the Netherlands, Hexham’s book sold for £106,250.

In a letter dated 1932, Lord Cottesloe said of his collection:

‘The whole basis of military history rests ultimately on weapons, which are the creators of tactics, and that whether for the history of campaigns, or for research into the art of war, a military library needs as much of the early material bearing on these matters as it can accommodate.’

This article was published in the January 2020 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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