Held on consecutive days, the first of two late September sales conducted by Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) presented a further selection of 16th and 17th century books from the Fox Pointe Manor library.
Sold at a high-estimate £12,000 on the first day, September 24, was a 1579 first of James Amyot and Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans…, a work that provided a major source for the plots of Shakespeare’s plays – and not just the classical ones.
This copy had been bound centuries later by Rivière in green crushed morocco gilt, but the spine has since faded
Previewed in ATG No 2459, another early work in a Rivière binding, this time of crushed red morocco, a 1585 first issue of an account of William Parry’s plot to assassinate Elizabeth I, made £1900.
A number of works with witchcraft as their principal theme were offered and sold at £3800 was a 1603 edition of Daemonologie, King James I’s famous response (first published in 1597) to those who argued against the existence of witchcraft.
In 19th century speckled calf, this was a copy deaccessioned from the British Library as early as 1787.
Originally delivered as a sermon and seen here in second edition form of 1610 was William Perkins’ Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, a work that affirms the existence of pacts with the Devil and urges the death penalty for convicted witches. In a repaired period binding it made £3200, a record for any edition.
In fact, all lots noted from this point on made auction record sums.
Sold at £5500 was a good example in a contemporary binding of the 1671 second edition of John Wagstaffe’s The Question of Witchcraft Debated…, a work offering a robust, sometimes sarcastic critique of the illusory power of witches. This copy also bore extensive contemporary notes to the endpapers and margins by a clergyman, Richard Brockleby.
Billed as the first public avowal of feminism in English was a 1639 translation by ‘N.N.’ of a French work by Jacques du Bosc. A copy of The Compleat Woman, it had a number of shortcomings, but in an antique style binding of the last century realised £3500.
Secured at £4000 was a copy in period panelled calf of a work billed as the first English feminist tract, An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex. In which are inserted the Characters of a Pedant, a Squire, a Beau, a Vertuoso, a Poetaster, a City-Critick…
Usually listed in auction records under the name Mary Astell, but now generally accepted to be the work of Judith Drake, said Forum, it is a defence against male accusations of ignorance, vanity, etc, and also addresses the faults of men. Drake’s husband contributed the commendatory verses at the beginning of the work.
One rare work on gardening and cultivation is featured in an accompanying illustration, but the sale also included a scarce 1653 first of Samuel Hartlib’s Discourse for Division or Setting Out of Land…in the Fens and other Waste and Undisposed Places in England and Ireland… that sold for £3200.
It is illustrated with two folding woodcut plates – a plan intended for a manor house garden and another for a large farm.
In a recent binding, but published in 1652, a copy of The Triall of a Black Pudding, or, the Unlawfulness of Eating Blood proved by Scriptures made £3200. Described by Forum as a rare and eccentric tract, this was a copy that had earlier graced two major collections, including that of Henry Huth.
A 1660 first (in a much later Sangorski & Sutcliffe binding of brown morocco gilt) of A Call from Death to Life was bid to £6500. It is a posthumously published account by Marmaduke Stephenson of the persecution of Quakers in New England.
Stephenson, William Robinson and a Mrs Mary Dyer were expelled from Boston on pain of death for promoting their beliefs, and on returning were arrested and sentenced to death. Dyer, with the noose already round her neck, was reprieved on the scaffold, but the two men were executed and thrown naked into an open pit to rot.
On September 25 Forum followed up with a more wide-ranging, 235-lot mix of books, manuscripts and other works on paper.
Though it sold at £42,000, rather less that had been suggested by the estimate, a 33pp illuminated manuscript of ‘Annabel Lee and other Poems’ by Edgar Allan Poe produced by Alberto Sangorski and bound in spectacular fashion by Rivière & Son proved the sale’s top lot*.
A frontispiece incorporating a watercolour portrait of Poe, a title page offering an imaginary likeness of Annabel Lee and four other full-page watercolours – among them that for the poem ‘To the River’ reproduced on the facing page – are among the principal decorations.
The front cover of the turquoise morocco binding, elaborately tooled in gilt and inlaid with 35 small jewels, has a central device in which a golden eagle sits atop a shield bearing the poet’s initials.
Alberto Sangorski was the elder brother of Francis, who established the famous bookbinding firm with George Sutcliffe, but did work for both Rivière and the S&S bindery. His most famous creation was a spectacular binding created for a manuscript of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that was lost when the Titanic sank in 1912.
Death and divorce
A very different manuscript lot was one of 1487 that presented a very rare example of an early divorce or annulment settlement.
Relating to a case heard in Oswestry, it sold at a much higher than expected £3500.
Sold at £19,000 was a rare copy of John Webster’s contribution to the many literary tributes prompted by the death in 1613 from typhoid of Henry, Prince of Wales, the 18-year-old heir of James I.
In a 20th century binding, this example of Webster’s A Monumental Columne… was one much later presented by the poet RH Stoddard to his fellow American critic and Shakespeare scholar, Richard Grant.
As far as Forum could find, this was the first copy seen at auction since 1937, when one offered as part of a bound collection of tracts prompted a bid of £6 at Sotheby’s.
A copy of the 1633, first collected edition of the Poems of John Donne in a late 19th/early 20th century binding made £7500.
To end on something completely different, travel books on offer included a copy of James Chapman’s two-volume account of 15 years spent hunting and trading during his Travels in the Interior of South Africa.
Published in 1868, its green cloth bindings were decorated to the front covers with gilt elephants and it sold at £2200.
* A copy of Marc Chagall’s Cirque of 1967 that provided the catalogue’s front cover illustration failed to sell on an estimate of £100,000-150,000.