In the original limp vellum binding, one of 300 copies on paper of the 1895 Kelmscott Press edition of The Tale of Beowulf, as created by the press founder William Morris and the Anglo-Saxon scholar AJ Wyatt, brought a bid of £3400 at the auction on September 8.
When published the price was two guineas.
That Beowulf bid was pretty much what had been expected, but half a dozen lots later a copy of Charles Dodgson’s Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there that had been estimated at just £200-300 was bid instead to a considerably more substantial £3000.
While this was certainly a first-issue copy, published in the last few days of December 1871, and was in the original cloth gilt binding, it had its shortcomings.
The binding was described as shaken, rubbed at the extremities and and cracked at the hinges, while some of the pages showed occasional light spotting and one group of 14pp was working loose.
In a contemporary binding of speckled calf, one of 500 second-edition copies of Adam Smith’s …Wealth of Nations printed in 1778 sold at £14,000.