Books & Periodicals

Material in this specialist market ranges from the early printed works of the Gutenberg Press and William Caxton right through to Modern First Editions and now up to signed copies of Harry Potter. Condition and rarity are the keys to this sector.


The Hobbit reaches £40,000 at Sotheby's.

20 August 2003

Last summer Sotheby’s took a bid of £36,000 on a copy of the 1937 first edition of The Hobbit inscribed in October of that year to Tolkien’s Aunt Jane; this summer they raised £40,000 for a copy that he had inscribed at the time of publication.

Philip Smith’s Lord of the Rings book wall, a new type of art object, sells for £130,000

12 August 2003

A small selection of striking and dramatic bookbindings by Philip Smith offered at Sotheby’s as part of their July 10 English Literature & History sale was not a complete success. In fact, five of the six lots failed to sell, but the most important of them, catalogued as “the greatest and most celebrated postwar English bookbinding” brought a bid of £130,000 from a collector.

Subastas Segre sale

24 July 2003

Subastas Segre (16% buyer’s premium) held their monthly sale from May 20 to 22. In the picture catalogue, top price was the double-estimate €30,000 (£22,060) for a complete set of Goya’s Caprichos, catalogued as First Edition but not in ideal condition. A 3ft 3in (1m) square abstract oil on canvas of 1982 by Fernando Zobel (1942-1984), whose work is highly regarded in Spain, made €23,700 (£17,425).

Nelson on Napoleon

09 July 2003

With preparations getting underway for the Nelson tricentenary celebrations in 2005, autograph collector and postal historian Gavin Littaur felt the time was right to sell an autograph letter, signed ‘Nelson & Bronte’, sent to William Churchey thanking him for his good wishes for the continuance of the peace.

White mischief

09 July 2003

d?f[lungu in Africa: Art from the Colonial Period, 1840-1940, by Michael Stevenson and Michael Graham-Stewart. ISBN 0620304626. Available from Thomas Heneage Art Bookshop, 42 Duke Street, London SW1Y 6DJ Tel: 020 7930 9223 Price £30hb and £22sb

Guided missals

09 July 2003

Illuminated Manuscripts and their Makers, by Rowan Watson, published by V&A Publications. ISBN 1851773851 £30hb

Early issue Hobbits have a £10,300 day out in Hagley

03 June 2003

Apparently consigned for sale by a local lady who had no idea of its commercial potential – it had been acquired as holiday reading when she was a young girl – a 1937 first edition of The Hobbit was sold at £10,300 in a general antiques sale held by Fieldings in Hagley, Worcester-shire, on April 26.

‘Woman as good as Man’ and other Departmental Ditties…

21 May 2003

SOLD AT £600 (Temple) in the April 25 sale held by Y Gelli (15% buyer's premium) in Hay-on-Wye was a “much nicer than average” copy of the 1886, privately printed, Lahore first edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Departmental Ditties and other Verses. One of 350 copies of this tall, narrow production, printed on one side only, it was in the original wrappers but with the flap removed, leaving an uneven fore-edge to the upper wrapper.

A man who shot to the top

21 May 2003

FEW images conjure up the nail-biting adventures of John Buchan more than Richard Hannay’s flight across the grouse moors of Scotland in the author’s best-known story, The Thirty Nine Steps.

$200,000 for first (lunar module data) book on the moon

14 May 2003

It hardly qualifies as a book, but the data card book in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin recorded critical values for input into the lunar module computer during the Apollo XI mission of 1969, autograph data that enabled them to make the first moon landing, certainly qualifies as an historical technical document.

Just Literature

14 May 2003

BEARING the simple, one-word title ‘Literature’, an April 8 sale held by Christie’s New York (19.5/10% buyer's premium) was mostly concerned with books of the 19th and 20th centuries. Earlier works were rather thin on the ground and the principle lot in this category, a 1632 second folio Shakespeare, with the ‘To the Reader’ leaf in facsimile and with some outer leaves washed and pressed before it was bound in crimson morocco gilt by Rivière, was left unsold on an estimate of $90,000-120,000.

Stepping out of his father’s shadow at last

08 April 2003

David Leach – 20th Century Ceramics by Emmanuel Cooper and Kathy Niblett, published by Richard Dennis Publications. ISBN 903685884 £25hb ISBN 0903685892 £20sb

Executioner’s tales offered a slice of life a century ago

05 March 2003

LAST month, 14 notebooks containing the gruesome diaries of Anatole Deibler, France’s last public executioner, were sold in Paris at Beaussant-Lefèvre (17.94% buyer’s premium) for €85,000 (£55,600).

Trouble and tribulations in the Colonies...

28 February 2003

Captain John Smith’s A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of noate as hath hapned in Virginia since the first planting of that Collony... , the first printed account of the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 – or, “the first permanent English colony in the New World, and hence the direct progenitor of the United States”, to quote Boies Penrose – is one of the legendary rarities of early Americana.

Memo on the Med

13 February 2003

Coming up in Lincoln: “ENGLAND expects every man to do his duty.” Nelson’s famous command was to be his last and effectively signalled the end of the Battle of Trafalgar. Details surrounding the start of the campaign are much more sketchy, but on February 20 Lincoln auctioneers Thomas Mawer & Son will be offering a memorandum written by Nelson to launch the famous battle.

End of an era for Guildford

03 February 2003

UK: Hamptons’ sale of Antiquarian & Modern Books and Maps at 11am on Thursday, February 13 will be a sad occasion both for the auctioneers and local book buyers. For years Thorpe’s of Guildford, under the late Charles Traylen, have been a familiar face at Hamptons auctions, and for much longer local bibliophiles have spent many a happy hour in the first floor barn of a room at the shop.

Did D’Amboise ever get to see Jean Froissart’s costly Chronicles

21 January 2003

FILLED with nearly 200 dazzling images of battles, knights, damsels in distress, tournaments, and castles that represent the finest work of the Rouen illuminators of the early Renaissance and captures all the pageantry and drama of the Hundred Years’ War, the extraordinarily fresh illuminated manuscript of Froissart’s Chronicles that sold for £2.75m at Sotheby’s on December 3 must have been the finest and most profusely illustrated manuscript of that famous work ever made.

Perryville revisited for bargains

21 January 2003

A 1467 second edition of the second part of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae, a massive treatise on moral rather than dogmatic theology that stands as an independent work, was one of the earlier printed highlights of a $4.69m (£2.97m) sale held by Sotheby’s New York on December 13, and once again it was one of a number of lots making a rapid return to the rooms.

‘Instructions to Mothers on the... Cutting of Teeth in Children’

10 January 2003

Seen here are two lots from the Ronald A. Cohen collection of Books, Prints and Objects illustrative of the History of Dentistry and Teeth, a 674-lot sale held by Bonhams on December 10.

Kelso gypsies, Walt Whitman and a hidden Dr Johnson

11 December 2002

ONE of the more expensive lots in this Cumbrian sale at Thomson Roddick & Medcalf on 6 November was an 1881 [Philadelphia] limited edition of the Complete Poems and Prose of Walt Whitman. An ex-library copy in well worn cloth and bearing a typescript note that it was bought “...at the sale of the library of the late Lord Rosebery”, it made £920. Some copies are signed, but the catalogue referred only to a manuscript limitation statement.

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