It read: “to Bryony – who is the most important person I’ve ever met in a signing queue & the first person ever to see merit in Harry Potter. With huge thanks. JK Rowling.”
Little meant a lot
In 1995 its author had sent the first three chapters only to a literary agent, Christopher Little, whom she picked from a list on the basis that he sounded like a character from a children’s book.
The manuscript was initially rejected – the agency having not previously handled children’s literature – but office manager Bryony Evens read it, was instantly smitten and persuaded Little to request the whole manuscript.
Initially issued in only a very small run in 1997, the book became a sensational success. However, it was not until 1998 that Evens, who had by then left the agency, attended a promotional reading of JK Rowling’s second book at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and then joined a queue to get her copies of Rowling’s books signed.
Though they had corresponded in earlier times, the two had never met, but the writer’s delight and response on realising who it was that stood before her is obvious from the inscription.
Other books inscribed by Rowling for Bryony were offered in the Knightsbridge sale on March 11, but this was the real prize.
Bid to a record £45,000 in the same auction was a rare example of the 1556, first French edition of Marco Polo’s account of his 24 years of travels from Acre, across Asia to China and finally back to Europe via a different route in the latter part of the 13th century.
It was first printed in German in 1477, but François Gugel’s French translation appears to have been based on a Latin version of 1532. Slightly waterstained throughout, it was in a period limp vellum binding.
Sold at a mid-estimate £38,000 was one of seven books now recorded as having once been part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s library. Four deal with historical or military subjects, but the other three all feature the Rime et Prose… of Torquato Tasso.
This 1584 edition of the third part, printed in Venice in 1584, bore Raleigh’s motto and signature on the title-page. It has been seen at auction before, but that was long ago, in 1890.
The Feminin Monarchie… is one of the more famous early works on bees and bee-keeping. A 1634, third edition of Charles Butler’s book sold for £3200 – seemingly an auction record for any edition.
There were some grease stains to the opening leaves, but an 1800 first of The Book of Nouns, or Things That May Be Seen which sold at £2800 was a rare miniature alphabet book issued by Darton & Harvey. Barely a couple of inches tall, it runs to 128pp and contains 63 full-page woodcut illustrations.
Most are accompanied by only a single word, but the occasional short phrase is found – “A Beaver has soft fur” and ‘Never play with edge tools”, for example.
Sold at £25,000 was a presentation copy of Le Corbeau, a translation into French of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven made in 1875 by Stéphane Mallarmé and illustrated by Edouard Manet, both of whom have signed the book.
One of 240 copies, this one was given to Charles and Dinah Seignobos, parents of one of the pupils that Mallarmé taught while working as a teacher. During the 1870s Charles Seignobos had persuaded the minister of public education to grant Mallarmé pay rises and paid leave.
One of 200 copies of the 1886 first edition of Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, the first and rarest of the photographically illustrated works of Peter H Emerson, made £24,000.
The card-mounted platinum prints have subtle and beautiful tones, but they were labour intensive to produce and in later works Emerson employed the photogravure and half-tone processes in printing his photographic studies.
This copy was disbound and six of the 40 images were missing, but only one other has made more at auction – one of just 25 copies of a deluxe issue that in 2007 made $70,000 (then £35,700) at Swann Galleries in New York.
The buyer’s premium at Bonhams was 27.5/25/2/13.9%.