You have 2 more free articles remaining

Books and works on paper

ONE of the job lots in a Cheffins (22.5% buyer’s premium) sale of February 22, valued at £100-200 and categorised as “literature and poetry, mainly 19th century”, sold for £3600.

However, though a number of wellknown authors were named, the one fully identified work was something very different and a work that in the past has made as much as $9000.

That was the sum paid in a 2014 Bonhams San Francisco sale for a three-volume, 1841 first (in faded original cloth) of Charles Mackay’s Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, a historical account of popular follies, fads, manias and the madness of crowds that has in recent years begun to make high prices.

The day’s high bid was £6000 for a first edition set of the Dickens ‘Christmas Books’. The key work, of course, is A Christmas Carol of 1843, seen open in the accompanying illustration near right to show the title-page and John Leech’s frontispiece illustration of ‘Mr Fezziwig’s Ball’.

The publisher’s ribbed, rose-brown cloth binding was a little worn and faded, there was a small tear starting at the head of the lower board and the spine was slightly cocked.

The copies of The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, however, would look to be rather better preserved in the publisher’s red cloth gilt bindings.

Persian roses blossom

The Cambridge catalogue cover featured an altogether more elaborate morocco gilt binding produced by Zaehnsdorf for a contemporary work by the Anglo-Irish writer Louisa S Costello.

The Rose Garden of Persia of 1845, a collection of Persian verses incorporating gilt illustrations and text set within patterned red borders in imitation of Persian illumination, sold at £600.

Other high spots of what was a good, wide-ranging sale of more than 400 lots included a bid of £2300 on one of just 20 quarto copies printed of Lord Henry Brougham’s 1838 speech in the House of Lords calling for …the immediate Emancipation of the Negro Apprentices.

Sold by a descendant, this was Sir Robert Peel’s copy and is inscribed to that effect on the title-page.

There were a good many deluxe, vellum-bound volumes featuring illustrations by Rackham, Dulac, and so on, and some familiar English topographies, but my final selection is a group of 10 lots of Agatha Christie books, many of them inscribed, that had been acquired by an American lady in the 1950s.

Christie inscriptions

Sold at £1400 was a 1932 first of The Thirteen Problems, the red cloth binding, like that of most of the books, slightly cocked, stained and worn, but inscribed “With love to you both from Agatha”.

That novel is dedicated to Leonard and Katherine Woolley, and as the writer’s archaeologist husband, Max Mallowan, had worked under Woolley at the excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia, it seems certain that other books in this property – inscribed simply to Len or Katherine – had a similar provenance.

Most lacked their jackets but a 1946 first of The Hollow in a stained and damaged wrapper, inscribed “Len with best wishes from Agatha”, made £1000. A 1955 first of Hickory Dickory Dock given to Len, which made the same price, also boasted a slightly stained jacket. One double lot, comprising firsts of They Came to Baghdad (1951) and Sparkling Cyanide (1945) that were inscribed for Len, made £1600.

Inscribed for Katherine by Agatha, a 1942 first of The Body in the Library made £1100.

• For more details on another lot that attracted much higher than expected bids and sold at £1900, a rarely seen 1842 work by Richard Doyle, see