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The previously unrecorded copy of Comedies, Histories and Tragedies that sold for £160,000 (plus 17.5/10% buyer’s premium) at Bloomsbury Auctions on October 7 was certainly an unanticipated find.

It was bought on the telephone by an overseas collector but, for the time being at least, will be kept in the UK. The underbidder was a British collector represented in the room by the booksellers Peter Harrington.

Consignor Anne Humphries, 49, was unaware of the book’s existence until she was contacted last month by a genealogist. He had spent two years trying to trace the next of kin of Frances Cottle of North London, who had died without leaving a will. The earlier provenance of the book remains a mystery.

Mrs Humphries took the folio to Bloomsbury who identified it as an original copy. The auctioneers delivered a quick turnaround and placed it in their 500th sale last week. Mrs Humphries, from Stockport in Cheshire, and her husband Paul, who runs an aluminium recycling company, were present at the sale themselves. They said that they would have preferred the copy to be bought by a public institution, and hoped that it would stay in the country.

The copy, which had 40 pages missing and other defects, including repaired tears, was far from perfect. It was therefore never likely to reach the heights of the £4.1m record set by the First Folio from the Abel E. Berland Library that sold in New York in 2001.

A better gauge of the price is indicated by the sales of First Folios at Sotheby’s New York in 1996, where a copy that had 16 leaves missing made $225,000, and a copy that sold for $50,000 at Bonhams & Butterfields in 2001 which had 75 leaves missing.

The £160,000 made by this copy is the highest price Bloomsbury have taken for a printed book.