Handsomely bound library sets, though present, are not part of this report, but as well as the £36,000 surprise discovery and sale of a Rousseau work bound for a French queen that featured in last week’s report (ATG No 2314), a rich mix was on offer and several records emerged.
Travel and topography
Privately printed in 1827, illustrated with 11, mostly litho plates and bound in contemporary blind and gilt stamped pink calf gilt, a famous mountaineering book, Charles Fellows’ Narrative of an Ascent to the Summit of Mont Blanc, sold at £6000.
This copy also contained a list (in French) of those who climbed the mountain between 1786 and 1846 – Fellows and his companion, William Hawes, were the 13th – as well as other associated material.
A fine copy in contemporary red morocco gilt of the 1816 first of Sir Henry Englefield’s illustrated account of the attractions, antiquities and geological phenomena of the …Isle of Wight sold for a record £850.
Ornithology and botany
This section opened with a £42,000 bid on a subscriber’s copy of Gould’s Birds of Great Britain, bound in reddish brown half morocco gilt. A number of the portfolios that contained the original parts issue of 1862-73 from which it was bound up are still in use in the house as folders for loose prints and drawings.
Also a subscriber copy was HE Strickland & AG Melville’s The Dodo and its Kindred, sold at a record £2800. Some waterstaining and fading to the binding was evident, but inside was a letter from Strickland to John Wolley of Edge Hall, discussing the book and thanking him for his help in its preparation.
A 1622, Paris first of Daniel Rabel’s Theatrum Florae… had its 70 fine engraved plates laid down and showed stains, spotting and other faults of condition, but it is rarely seen complete. Bearing on the binding the gilt arms of J-P Bignon, librarian to Louis XV, it made a low-estimate £10,000.
In 1987, an exceptional copy with all plates fully coloured and signed by the artist, William Theodore, and containing five original watercolours in a similar style, sold for a 10-times estimate £170,000 in the celebrated and high-priced Sotheby’s sale of the De Belder library.
A 1634 first in contemporary calf of Thomas Moffet’s Insectorum…, showing some browning and marginal water staining, made £3200. The first book on insects published in England, it set new standards in its field.
Sold for £4500, a sum only once bettered at auction, was a first edition set of John Curtis’ British Entomology of 1823-40, the eight volumes bound in full green morocco.
Left unfinished at the death of the author, Edward Doubleday, but completed by John Westwood, a two volume, 1846-52 first of The Genera of Diurnal Lepidoptera made a record £9000. Illustrated with 66 litho plates, all bar one coloured, it was finely bound in contemporary green morocco gilt.
Yet another record was set at £2800 by a 1794 edition of Moses Harris’ famous illustrated study of English butterflies, moths and other insects. This, however, was a French/English text edition, issued as Le Aurelien, ou, Histoire Naturelle des Insectes Anglois.
The Edge Hall set of …The Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America by John Richardson and others was bid to £24,000, a sum far higher than anything previously recorded.
A four volume first edition set of 1829-37, illustrated with 110 etched, engraved and lithographed plates, many hand coloured, it was handsomely bound in contemporary polished tree calf gilt.
“A gorgeous set of this important work on the natural history of the fur trading regions,” said Forum of a work that has also been dubbed a unique source of inspiration for numberless writers and a standard authority. Richardson took part in two of Sir John Franklin’s early overland expeditions to Canada and the Arctic regions.
Sold at what would appear to be a record £9500 was a 1662, second edition of the first announcement of Boyle’s Law, an experimental proof that a volume of gas varies inversely with the pressure.
Illustrated with two plates, this copy of New Experiments Physico- Mechanicall, touching the Spring of the Air… was in worn and broken but contemporary calf.
The star turn was a fine copy in period half calf and marbled boards of David Ricardo’s On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation that made a record £19,000, but there were other successes.
Bid to £3200 was a volume, bound in contemporary polished calf, containing firsts of Robert Torrens’ An Essay on the Production of Wealth of 1821 and On Wages and Combination of 1834.
The previous best for the first named work by this ex-Royal Marine, MP, newspaper proprietor and pioneering economist was £2400, but I could find no mention of the later work in auction records.
Two works by John Stuart Mill must also be noted. The earlier of them was an 1859 first of On Liberty, the original cloth binding now faded at the spine, which made £2600.
Only one copy has made more, albeit a great deal more. That was a copy, inscribed by Mill to the French diplomat, political scientist, historian and writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, that at Bonhams in 2015 made £90,000. Though a wonderful association copy, it was one in which the pages had never been opened.
Lotted together to sell for a far higher than expected £2400 were an 1863, first separately published edition of JS Mill’s Utilitarianism (reprinted from Fraser’s Magazine) and an 1875 first of his Autobiography.
There were just 50 copies of the Imperial Folio edition of John Martin’s Illustrations to Paradise Lost. The largest and most luxurious version, it offered 24 lettered proofs of the mezzotints and was issued by Septimus Prewett, c.1824-27. Originally priced at 24 guineas, the Edge Hall set, bound in red half morocco and marbled boards, made £17,000.
Bid to £21,000 was a portfolio of nine early salt prints from negatives, seven of which were the work of the photography pioneer WH Fox Talbot; the other two being attributed to him or his circle.
Published in 1808, The Lady’s Economical Assistant, or the Art of Cutting Out, and Making… Wearing Apparel made a 10-times estimate £3000. Uncut in original boards, it features 27 folding engraved plates with clear outlines of garments intended largely for poor women and children, and with an emphasis on minimising waste.
Early printed works
Estimated at £300-400 but sold for £1800 was a 1534 copy of A Plaine and Godly Exposition or Declaration of the Comune Crede by Erasmus.
It was incomplete, occasionally shaved, foxed and browned in parts, but auction records show only one other. That ex-Britwell Court copy sold for £3000 almost a quarter of a century ago.