Edging just past the low estimate to sell at £32,000 at Sotheby’s (25/20/13.9% buyers premium) was a fourth edition of Purchas his Pilgrimes, dating from 1625-26.
Running to five large volumes, Samuel Purchas’ work was a famous continuation of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, which had first appeared in 1589.
Together they provided an invaluable record of the early British voyages of exploration around the world.
The sale was a timed online-only auction that ended on May 12.
On his way
A bid of £30,000 doubled the high estimate on just a single sheet of paper bearing annotated lyrics for some of the verses of Bob Dylan’s song Most likely you go your way and I’ll go mine – 16 of them typed lines and 16 autograph. It had been previously offered in the same rooms in 1993.
Drunkard and Duke
Other highlights included a preparatory and unpublished drawing by Antoine de Saint Exupéry for the character of ‘The Drunkard’ in The Little Prince, at £11,000, and a 1952 letter from Churchill to the wartime fighter ace and test pilot Neville Duke that reached £5500.
In writing “It was characteristic of you, & of 615 Squadron to go up as you did yesterday after the shocking accident. Accept my salute…”, Churchill was referring to Duke’s decision to carry on with the flying display at the 1952 Farnborough air show following a horrific crash.
As it flew over the crowds, the DH110 prototype for what eventually became the Sea Vixen jet fighter, disintegrated.
Duke’s fellow pilot and friend, John Derry, along with his flight observer Tony Richards, perished, and as the plane broke up and the engine plummeted into the crowd, 29 spectators lost their lives.