George III mahogany writing cabinet on stand.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The reason was the writer whose cabinet it had been.

The 6ft 3in (1.90m) high piece with panel doors enclosing pigeonholes around a fall-front secretaire, came with a framed letter from Sir Walter Scott giving it to John Gibson, his agent and trustee of his creditors. Dated March 1826, the letter says: "There are in it receipts regularly bundled up for more than 20 years which may as well be with you in case of reference, though perhaps two thirds (?) of them may be destroyed." How Scott's printer partner went bankrupt and left the author determined to spend the rest of his life writing enough to pay off all his debts, is one of the best known tales in literature and this symbolic desk was of huge interest to fans of the great man.

The vendor had hoped the cabinet - which auctioneer Sebastian Pryke said was more attractive in reality than in the photograph - would go to a "national institution". He could take comfort from the fact that the new owner, who bought it just below estimate at £3500, is a Scott scholar living in the New Town area of Edinburgh.