Detail of one of the pages in Sarah North’s late 17th century copybook, which sold for £35,000 in a Tennants sale of March 19-20, showing her calculations on a mathematical problem involving acorns alongside a penwork bird.

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Pictures, furniture and even some antique saddles were among items from Forcett Hall in North Yorkshire that made up part of a very large, March 19-20 sale held by Tennants (20% buyer’s premium). However, the main financial attraction in Leyburn proved to be something very different.

Estimated at just £1000-1500 but sold for £35,000 was a copybook or manuscript of the late 17th century. Within this, a young lady called Sara North demonstrated just how well she was getting on with the calligraphy, handwriting and arithmetic in which she was being instructed by her private tutor, one Elizabeth Beane.

Inscribed ‘Sarah North Her Book Scholler to Eliz Beane Mrs in the Art of Writing and Arithmetick anno 1686’, it contains more than 120pp of exercises, all executed in black ink but incorporating red borders and underlining, as well as occasional use of other coloured inks. It also features numerous figure and animal doodles or drawings.


The worn binding of Sarah North’s late 17th century copybook, which sold for £35,000 in a Tennants sale of March 19-20.

The binding of contemporary gilt-tooled calf boards and spine, bearing Sarah’s name in rectangular cartouches to front and back, was in very poor condition, being badly wormed and worn.

Most pages also showed some general discolouration, spotting and minor staining.

In the same way that the blank end leaves of Bibles are often used to record family births, deaths and marriages, this volume was itself used over the succeeding years to list such details relating to the Pike family of Cork, into which Sarah had married.

Dickens tops the bidding


A spread from the 1843 copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol sold at Tennants for £4200.

Tennants had held a dedicated book sale on March 10 in which a copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, identified as a second state example of the first issue, had led the bidding at £4200.

Bid to £950 in that sale, as part of the Chris Casson collection of early 20th century modernist works, was a copy of Paul Morand’s Paris de Nuit of 1933.

This well-known collection includes photogravure reproductions of the seedier side of Paris nightlife captured in the photographs of Brassaï, or Gyula Halász.