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Travels to fresh heights

Checking for sale prices of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Between the Woods and the Water, I was surprised to find that none of this fine travel writer’s books has so far made it into the record books.

In that case, the £600 paid on January 25 at Chiswick Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) for an inscribed presentation copy (above right) of that long-delayed second account of his youthful travels across central Europe to Greece and Istanbul has to be a record.

The events described took place in the 1930s, but it was 1977 before he published his first account of the journey in A Time of Gifts, and another 11 years before Between the Woods… appeared.

The Chiswick copy was inscribed to John Craxton, a good friend who designed the covers of this and most of the writer’s other books.

The final account of that 1930s journey was still unfinished at the author’s death in 2011, but was edited for publication in 2013 as The Broken Road by fellow travel writer Colin Thubron and by ‘Paddy’s’ biographer, Artemis Cooper.

From Woolf to Lady Ottoline…

A 1925, Hogarth Press first of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway offered by Dominic Winter (19.5% buyer’s premium) on December 15 lacked the dust jacket designed by Vanessa Bell and was a little rubbed. However, it more than made up for that in a short but valuable presentation inscription to Ottoline Morrell from Woolf.

The author once described the book as her ‘Garsington Novel’ and it is generally accepted that it describes the home life and social world of the doyenne of the Bloomsbury Group, Lady Ottoline, and her husband, Philip. An important association item, it sold well at £15,500.

Only one copy has made more – a recased and restored first that Virginia inscribed for Vita Sackville-West that made £25,000 at Sotheby’s in 2006.

In the recent South Cerney sale a 1964 first in jacket of The Whitsun Weddings that Philip Larkin inscribed for a Christina Morris sold at a record £1750.

…And from TS Eliot to Woolf

A copy of TS Eliot’s first book, the 1917 collection of verses called Prufrock and other Observations, doubled expectations in a November 14 sale at Christie’s New York (15/20/12%) to sell for a record $95,000 (£74,805).

Loose in the original, now slightly soiled wrappers this very special copy of the Egoist Press first was inscribed on the front cover for Leonard Woolf (left), in gratitude and affection, and with a reminder that his next, or second book would be published by Leonard and Virginia’s Hogarth Press.

Poems duly followed in 1919 and The Waste Land in 1922.

Half a ‘Mayor…’ has extra Hardy appeal

Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge was first printed in 1886 and of that two-volume edition, only 650 copies were actually bound up. Temptingly estimated at £100-200 in a December 13 sale held by John Nicholson’s (20% buyer’s premium) was a lot offering the first volume only – but it was signed by the author (see left) and sold instead for £3000.

Such things are rare. In 1984 at Sotheby’s New York, a signed copy in half morocco made $600 and at Bloomsbury Auctions in 2008 another, in the original dark blue cloth and inscribed to John Drinkwater, made £800. In that same year Bloomsbury also sold, at £2000, a very poor copy of a 1925 edition inscribed by Hardy to Louise Prussin, an actress who appeared in Drinkwater’s 1926 stage production of the novel. Other cast members had also signed or inscribed the book.

The record of £12,000 for the book was set by a finely preserved copy in the incomparable Hardy collection formed by Frederick B Adams Jr and sold by Sotheby’s in 2001. That copy contained an autograph note of 1908 from the author to Captain JE Ackland, curator of the Dorset County Museum. It refers to Hardy’s subscription to a fund that would cover the cost of excavations at the Maumbury Rings, a site mentioned in the novel.