One of the best results came for an album of some 166 watercolours and drawings focusing on people and places in China, the Far East and the Pacific made in the years 1842-53 by Rear Admiral Marcus Lowther. It sold at a treble-estimate £52,000 at the auction on June 9.
An album of drawings of Australian aborigines that made a far higher than expected £72,000 featured in News Digest, ATG No 2447.
Opticks on top
Best-selling lot was the earliest known presentation first of Newton’s Opticks… of 1704 – one that he gave to a close friend and collaborator, the Swiss mathematician and philosopher Nicolas Fatio de Duillier.
The original published estimate was £300,000-400,000, but come sale day and further discussion with the consignor, those high expectations had been modified and both estimate and reserve revised. It sold for £155,000 to an online bidder.
Only one copy has made more at auction. In 2015, the example inscribed by Newton for his friend and supporter, the astronomer Sir Edmund Halley, took $1.1m (then £595,170) in a Sotheby’s New York sale of the Robert S Pirie library.
At the round table
Hammered down at £32,000 to an online buyer was a 1634, sixth edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s History of the Renowned Prince Arthur King of Britaine…, the last to be printed until the revival of interest in medieval literature in the 19th century.
It had been first printed by Caxton in 1485 and again by Wynkyn de Worde in 1498, but realistically, said Forum, William Stansby’s 1634 edition is the the earliest obtainable – only 15 or so copies from all five earlier editions being recorded.
Rather browned and stained in a 20th century binding, Stansby’s edition has, at the beginning of each of the three parts of the text, the same woodcut of Arthur and his knights seated around the famous round table.
Other early printed successes included a 1570 Venetian first in an early 19th centry binding of Palladio’s Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, illustrated with 221 woodcut images, plans and sections after his original drawings. It took £19,000 online.
Sold at a double-estimate £13,000 was a 1599, first English edition (in a 20th century binding) of the Philobiblion… of Richard de Bury, a Bishop of Durham whose 1345 work on collecting and the maintenance of a library makes it the first manifesto of bibliophily, said Forum.
Some caricatures and satires came in large collections, such as a lot offering some 165 prints, mostly issued by Fores in the years 1790- 1810, which sold for £14,000.
Others were offered as a single lot, like a George Cruikshank etching of 1819 which made £3900. Titled American Justice!, or the Ferocious Yankee Genl. Jack’s Reward for butchering two British Subjects!!!, this has President Monroe saying “…Where e’er you catch the English String ‘em up like Herrings!”
This referred to an 1818 incident in which General Jackson had been sent to attack the Seminole Indians from Florida who were making trouble on the frontier. In the process he hanged two British subjects said to have been exercising hostile influence with the Indians.
Fun and games
A good selection of board games were offered and Wallis’s New Game of Wanderers in the Wilderness of c.1844 made £4500.
Played on a hand-coloured aquatint map of South America, dissected and mounted on linen, this example retained the rarely seen booklet of rules.
A jaguar, tapir, anacondas, llamas, condor and a rhea are all pictured on the map, as are figures collecting juice from an agave tree, panning for gold, even a gaucho lassoing wild cattle. Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso, Lima and Quito are all marked, as indeed is Alexander Selkirk (the real Robinson Crusoe) on the island of Juan Fernandez.
A copy of Wallis’ New Game of Genius, or Compendium of Inventions… made £4800. Its 36 aquatint vignettes depict mining, a telegraph station, lithographic printing, a fire-engine, ballooning, paper-making and even a lifeboat.
Meanwhile, far exceeding an estimate of £600-800, along with all previous auction prices, a fine example in dust jacket of John Maynard Keynes’ The End of Laissez- Faire of 1926 sold for £5500.
Fine and rare bindings
A number of very fine or rare bindings were offered in the Forum catalogue, and though a couple carrying substantial five-figure estimates failed to sell, several others found buyers. Three are illustrated here.