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Sold: 17th-century multimedia publication

— December 2013

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Frontispiece of Michael Maier's  Atalanta Fugiens, sold in London for £21,080

What is probably the world’s earliest example of a multimedia publication has sold for £21,080

A book that could be the first example of a publication containing images, words and music sold for £21,080 on Thursday 28 November, at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions sale of Important Books and Manuscripts.

German physician, alchemist and amateur composer Michael Maier published his work Atalanta Fugiens, in 1617. Between 1587 and 1596 Maier had studied both philosophy and medicine and was impressively both physician and imperial counsellor to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, member of the House of Habsburg, who shared Maier’s interest in the occult. Maier died at the age of 54 with a substantial amount of unpublished work remaining.

Alongside images, poems and discussion, the book contains music in the form of 50 fugues, a compositional technique in which a theme or themes are stated in two or more voices and repeated frequently at different pitches. They are accompanied by emblematic illustrations by Maier's contemporary Matthias Marian, all with contemporary hand colouring, a Latin motto and an epigram.

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