The frontispiece and title-page of Gervase 'Markham’s Art of Archerie…', sold for £4000 by Forum Auctions.

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Sold for £11,000 at Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) on July 19 was London’s Dreadful Visitation: or, a Collection of all the Bills of Mortality… This was a detailed record of the deaths recorded in London in a 12-month period beginning in December 1664, when more than two-thirds of the 97,300 deaths recorded in the capital’s parishes were a result of the plague.

Getting hysterical

Edward Jorden’s A Briefe Discourse of a Disease called the Suffocation of the Mother of 1603, which made a record £7000, was the first book in English on hysteria.

It was published, said the Forum cataloguer, within a month of the London edition of King James’ Daemonologie as an attempt to reclaim the demonically possessed for medicine.

The catalogue entry also quotes from Hunter & Macalpine’s Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry: “Joren introduced into English medicine the ancient concept of hysteria as a disease entity with specific etiology, a sex-linked nervous disorder, the potential imitator of all ills… [and] an important chapter in the history of psychiatry.”

Sold at £15,000, some 10 times the low estimate, was a 1572 first (in defective 18th century panelled calf) of John Bossewell’s Works of Armorie… that was once part of the library of Mark Masterman Sykes.

Based in large part on earlier heraldic work by Gerald Legh, it features numerous woodcut armorial shields, crests, initials and other figures, along with some contemporary manuscript notes.

Sold at £38,000 was a 1609, first English edition (in modern calf) of Richard Hakluyt’s translation of Hernando de Soto’s account of his extensive travels in what are now the southern and south-western states of America, an account first published in Portuguese in 1557.

One of Hakluyt’s scarcer works, it was intended to encourage emigrants to the new colony of Virginia.


The title-page of London’s 'Dreadful Visitation…' – £11,000 at Forum Auctions.

Sold at £4000 was a rarely seen work of 1634 by the otherwise prolific Gervase Markham, The Art of Archerie… It was closely trimmed with some loss to headlines and catchwords and showed some soiling but still in its rebacked contemporary binding of mottled calf.

Forum could trace only two copies at auction in the past 70 years – one of them this very copy, which in 1979 sold for £350. The other one was the handsome copy in the great Macclesfield Library, which in 2005 at Sotheby’s sold at £5500.

* The first selection of books from this American collection was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2016.