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1. Darwin presentation copy 

A “very rare” first edition and author’s presentation copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species from 1859 leads Bonhams, Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in Knightsbridge on 20 March.

Only 1250 copies of the British naturalist’s study in evolution were initially printed in 1859. He gifted one of them to the distinguished British-born botanist and physician, Dr Hugh Weddell, whom he greatly admired.

Dr Weddell’s name appeared on the manuscript list of persons to receive copies of the first edition of On the Origin of Species drawn up by Darwin sometime between August and October 1859. Just a few dozen copies were presented by Darwin to his circle.

Estimate £150,000-250,000.


2. Modernist silver box


Jean Després Modernist silver box and cover, estimate £800-1200 at Woolley & Wallis.

Counting Andy Warhol and Josephine Baker among his collectors, the jewellery designer and silversmith, Jean Després moved in illustrious circles. The French designer was apprenticed to a silversmith at 16 and studied design in Paris where Georges Braque became a particular friend.

His Cubist influence can be seen in a collection of Després silver that features in the March 20-21 sale of Clarice Cliff, Art Deco and Design at Woolley & Wallis.

This 4in (10cm) Modernist silver box and cover has a guide of £800-1200.


3. Rousseau letter


Chorley’s is offering this letter by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, estimate £3000-5000.

On March 20 Gloucestershire saleroom Chorley’s is offering this letter by the renowned 18th century Swiss Enlightenment philosopher, and political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78).

Identified on a routine valuation day (the owner had no idea who it was written to, or by, as it was written in French) it was penned by Rousseau to a Monsieur Le Chambrier, a diplomat to the Kingdom of Prussia, who was stationed to protect the municipality of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

A translation of the letter shows Rousseau asking for help with a woman’s plight following a fire. Le Chambrier was well-known to Rousseau and he mentioned him in his memoirs, The Confessions.

The letter carries an estimate of £3000-5000.

4. Turner watercolour


A newly discovered early watercolour by JMW Turner depicting the entrance to Bishop Vaughan’s Chapel in St David’s, Wales, is guided at £20,000-30,000 at Cheffins.

A newly discovered early watercolour by JMW Turner is guided at £20,000-30,000 in the Cheffins auction in Cambridge on March 20 (pictured top).

Depicting the entrance to Bishop Vaughan’s Chapel in St David’s, Wales, the painting is signed W Turner and can be dated to the artist’s 1795 tour of Wales. It has been held in a private Suffolk collection for the past 30 years. The watercolour was purchased in a group lot of paintings at a regional auction house in Suffolk for approximately £100 in the early 1990s, having been previously unidentified.

The painting’s owner says: “The painting was hanging in our dining room for over 30 years - we periodically discussed that the picture could be by Turner but did not take it any further.

“After a trip to Wales in the autumn of 2022 visiting St David’s Cathedral, our interest in our picture was rekindled. At this point, we turned to the TATE Clore Gallery website and discovered the Turner sketch relating to our watercolour. As we were aware of the recent sale of a Turner at Cheffins, we decided to contact them.”

Cheffins sold a painting of Chepstow Castle overlooking the River Wye to the Chepstow Museum in March 2023 for a hammer price of £75,000.

The painting has been verified by Andrew Wilton, leading scholar on Turner and the first Curator of the Clore Gallery for the Turner Collection at the Tate Britain.


5. Jack the Ripper collection


A previously unknown collection of items related to the Jack the Ripper murders, expected to sell for in excess of £10,000 at Whitton & Laing.

A previously unknown collection of items related to the Jack the Ripper murders will be offered at auction by Whitton & Laing in Exeter on March 22.

They all belonged to Inspector Joseph Henry Helson (1845-1920) and have been passed down through his family and are currently in the possession of his great grandson.

Helson was a Devonshire man. After working for the South Devon railway as a porter and policeman, he joined the Metropolitan Police as a constable in 1869, retiring as an inspector in 1895. At the time of the first Ripper murder, that of Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols on August 31, 1888, Helson was acting inspector in J Division and took charge of the investigation. He also assisted in the second murder and attended inquests of some of the other victims. On his retirement from the Met, he returned to Devon and again worked for the railway.

Among the items to be sold are a mortuary photo of Mary Nichols which, although faded, seems to differ from the known photo with the camera at a very slightly different angle. There are also two photos of one of the main suspects, Michael Ostrog, with notes to the reverse listing three of his aliases, criminal record and physical appearance.

The collection is to be offered as one lot and is expected to sell for in excess of £10,000.