An illustration of goats’ heads and the Latin tag ‘Front Nulla Fides’, sometimes taken to translate as ‘Appearances Deceive’ but here given as ‘No Trusting a Title- Page’, from the curious Frontspieceana… collection sold by Toovey’s for £5000.

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The core of Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium) May 15 auction, they were books from a collection formed by Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809-85), and continued by his son, the liberal politician Robert Milnes-Crewe, 1st Marquess of Crewe, who died in 1945.

Lord Houghton was both politician and poet, a distinguished man of letters and the author of the first biography of Keats, as well as a friend of Tennyson.

In 2014 the West Horsley estate was inherited by the original University Challenge host, Bamber Gascoigne, from his great-aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. In the following year, however, he gave ownership of the estate to the newly created Mary Roxburghe Trust, which is restoring the medieval manor house and creating a centre for the visual and performing arts as well as the teaching of various crafts.

Books from the library were sold in the Toovey’s saleroom to raise money for that project, and a few more offered that same day at Sotheby’s – see the separate story in this edition.

Truly, madly, deeply

Sold at £7000 by Toovey’s was a signed copy of Lady Caroline Lamb’s Verses from Glenarvon, a limited-edition work of 1819, perhaps intended for private circulation only. This example incorporated an original watercolour of the author by Eliza Jones and a letter in Lady Caroline’s hand.

Glenarvon itself, an anonymously published novel of 1816, had caused a scandal, being a thinly disguised but quickly recognised kiss-and-tell account of Lady Caroline’s earlier affair with Byron, or as the poet put it, a “f***-and-publish” venture. And it was Lady Caroline who famously dubbed Byron “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

Bid to £8500 was a bound collection of some 17 tracts, pamphlets, contemporary cartoons, etc, relating to the supposed abduction of Elizabeth Canning. She was a maid whose 1753 claim that she had been kidnapped and held prisoner for a month led to two famous trials.

One of the items in the lot, A Clear State of the Case…, was the work of the writer Henry Fielding, though here acting in his capacity as a London magistrate. Fielding thought Canning innocent and convicted Susannah Wells, in whose house Elizabeth claimed to have been held, as well as Mary Squires as an accomplice. However, his fellow magistrate and sometime Mayor of London, the splendidly named Sir Crisp Gascoyne, was unhappy with the verdict and began his own investigation.

A case that became a long running cause célèbre among opposing factions, it eventually led to pardons and Canning’s arrest, trial for perjury, imprisonment and transportation.

On the front foot

Sold at £5000 was Frontispieceana, or a Collection of Engraved Frontispieces, Title- Pages etc.

With a manuscript frontispiece stating that it was completed at Tomblands, Ipswich, in 1816, it contains 12 pages of manuscript introduction followed by 200 leaves featuring, as promised, title-pages, frontispieces, illustrations, decorative initials, etc dating from the 16th to the early 19th centuries.

Another highlight of the Toovey’s sale was a signed, 1800 first of Mathias Koops’ Historical Account… of the various substances that have been used as a medium for the dissemination of events and ideas …from the earliest Date to the Invention of Paper. Printed on what he describes as the first useful paper made from straw, it sold at £1500.

Bid to a record £2000 was an 1867 first of Journey to Ashango-Land… by Paul Du Chaillu, a Franco-American zoologist and anthropologist who was the first to confirm the existence of gorillas and indeed the Pgymy peoples.

The cloth binding of this copy, a gift from the author to Robert Milnes-Crewe, was faded at the spine and bumped, but tipped-in was a four-page letter that he wrote to Sir Richard Burton.