Much of the appeal lay in the fact that this copy had retained the dust jacket – designed by the writer’s sister, Vanessa Bell – that is so often lacking.
A copy that had carried a difficult to comprehend estimate of just £100-150, it set a record for a straightforward first – easily beating the $22,000 (then £13,250) paid three years ago at Sotheby’s New York for the copy in the Gordon Waldorf collection.
The outright record for the book, however, rests with a copy that not only lacked a jacket, but had been re-cased and had the pastedowns renewed.
What pushed the price for a copy offered by Sotheby’s in 2006 to £25,000 was the fact that it bore an inscription to Vita Sackville West, but the auctioneers had been hoping for even more – setting an estimate of £30,000-50,000!
Also valued at £100-150 apiece in the Cheltenham sale were Hogarth firsts of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse of 1927 and The Years of 1937, both in jackets designed by Bell. They sold for £5200 and £500 respectively.
Other modern firsts included a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World of 1932 at £1150.
The Woolf books had been immediately preceded in the catalogue by copies of Little Red Riding Hood and Wallis’s New Geographical Game… a tour through England Wales of 1795.
The former was described as No 1 in a ‘Deans New Scenic Books’ series. That detail and a note that it retained original silk ribbons, identifies it as a copy of a work with pop-up illustrations first issued, it would seem, c.1865. It sold at £420.
The latter, valued at £40-60 but sold for £750, was an early example of this educational board game in a now very worn and rubbed but original slipcase.
A great many multiples appeared among the lots offered but other notable individual items included a coloured copy of JJ Römer’s Genera Insectorum… of 1789 at £800 and a 1502 edition in full calf binding of Bernhard von Breydenbach’s famous Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam at a much higher than predicted £5200.
Could the latter, containing large folding views of Jerusalem and other cities among the woodcut illustrations – originally produced by Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht – have been an edition issued in that year by Peter Drach of Speyer?
Copies of the 1486, Mainz first edition have made as much as £230,000 – the copy in Lord Wardington’s library, sold at Sotheby’s in 2005.