The book had its origins in the stories about Fitzpatrick’s travels and experiences as a young storeman, prospector’s assistant and wagon driver country in the Bushveld region of the Transvaal that he later told to his four children.
It was Jock, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross who became his constant and loyal companion, however, who was the real hero of the bedtime stories that were so loved by the “likkle people” to whom the book that eventually evolved was dedicated on it first appearance in 1907.
Rudyard Kipling was one of Fitzpatrick’s closest friends and used to take part in these story-telling evenings, and he it was who persuaded Fitzpatrick to put the tales together in book form.
In seeking a suitable artist to illustrate the book, Fitzpatrick eventually came across Edmund Caldwell in London and brought him to South Africa to visit the Bushveld and make the drawings on the spot.
Published by Longmans, the book was an immediate success, being reprinted four times in that same year.
The copy that is to be offered by South African saleroom AntiquarianAuction.com in an online sale ending on June 1 is signed by the author to the title-page and an inscription on the front paste-down endpaper reads: “This – the first copy of ‘Jock’ – ‘belongs to the Likkle People’ and the mere narrator desires to acknowledge that fact in proper form. J Percy Fitzpatrick Hohenheim October 1907”.
The spine is starting to fray at the ends and the covers and corners are slightly scuffed, but this special copy is now preserved and protected in a solander box with a dark green and gilt lettered title label on the spine.
It is a first impression, 5000 copies of which were printed at a total cost to Longmans of a little over £400, but this exceptional example is estimated to sell at US$12,000-15,000.
The most that a copy has ever previously made auction would appear to be £200, at Lyon & Turnbull in 2014.
Unusually in present times, Antiquarian Auction.com make no buyers’ premium charges and also declare from the start the reserve – in this instance US$ 10,000.
* Fitzpatrick, who went on to become a politician and enjoy success in the mining and fruit farming worlds, has one other very notable claim to fame – as the man who suggested to King George V that a two minute silence be observed annually on November 11, in honour of those who died in the First World War.