An iPad Ancestor, a Nazi "Enigma" Machine, and Nabokov's Last Novel Head to Christie's

An iPad Ancestor, a Nazi "Enigma" Machine, and Nabokov's Last Novel Head to Christie's
The cover of the catalogue for Christie's November 23 books and manuscripts auction in London features an image of William Shakespeare, a print by Matisse, and a slightly more unusual sight: a bulky black box fitted with buttons, knobs, and wires. It is an example of the World War II German cipher machine known as the "enigma," and it is just one of the unusual items on offer in a 91-lot sale that has something for bibliophiles, art collectors, computer connoisseurs, and history enthusiasts alike.

Tech lovers should take note of the Apple I computer up for auction with a £100–150,000 ($160–240,000) estimate. Though perhaps pricey for a computer with only eight kilobytes of RAM, it is believed to be one of the first personal computers ever produced and is dated 1976. It was originally priced at $666.66, reportedly because Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak liked repeating numbers.

In search of a piece of gadgetry with a more historical patina? The aforementioned "enigma" machine may be just the item one is looking for. Dating from around 1939, the machine was used by various branches of the Nazi government and military to send coded messages. Helped by Nazi conspirators, the Allied Forces were eventually able to crack its potent encryption abilities, making the item a delightful artifact but a useless coding device. It could fetch £30–50,000 ($48–80,000).

Art lovers will find much to like in the sale. A first edition of Matisse's 1947 brilliantly colored "Jazz" book, including 20 lithograph plates, is among the offerings. Number 52 from an edition of 250, the work is inscribed by the artist to his daughter-in-law and is expected to command £180–250,000 ($286–401,000) on the block. One critic quoted in the catalogue described "Jazz" representing a "profound revolution in the oeuvre of the artist and in the history of contemporary art."

There are Goyas on offer, too. A second edition of his 80-plate 1799 work "Los Caprichos," a potent critique of political corruption in his native Spain is expected to pull in £30–40,000 ($48–64,000). The winning bidder will join an illustrious group of people who have owned the work, including artists Tiepolo and Delacroix. Deeper-pocketed Goya lovers can bid on a copy of the artist's final series "Los Proverbios," which carries a £45–60,000 ($72–96,000) presale  estimate. The plates for the haunting and dark works were discovered only after Goya's death, and it is believed that the artist may not have intended for them to be widely published. However, his fans, and the art market, won the day.

Click the photo gallery at left to see lots from the sale.