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Sold at £20,000 on November 19 was the tale of ‘Una and the Redcross Knight’ from The Faerie Queene, boasting a stunning, elaborately gilt binding produced for Rivière & Son by Alberto Sangorski.

His most famous creation was a stunning binding for a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that sadly went down with the Titanic.

The elder brother of Francis Sangorski, who in partnership with George Sutcliffe established the famous bookbinding firm that bears their names, Alberto did work for both S&S and, from 1910, for Rivière & Son.

Not what it seemed


A modern recreation by Sangorski & Sutcliffe of a binding made in the very early years of the 20th century by George Sangorski for a copy of Edmund Spenser’s 'Epithalamion and Amoretti'. It sold for £24,000 at Forum.

A binding made for a copy of Spenser’s Epithalamion and Amoretti sold at £24,000 in the same Forum Auctions sale – but was not quite what it seemed.

Though one of 14 copies printed on vellum by Bumpus in 1903, the jewelled binding is a recent recreation of one produced by Francis at the beginning of the last century.

The work was carried out by members of the present day firm of Sangorski & Sutcliffe, using a 40-year old dark green Levant goatskin that is no longer available and new brass tools cut specifically for the project.

Dan Wray, head of restoration and conservation at S&S, was responsible for the gold tooling, which is said to have taken him five weeks and used up 25 books of 22ct gold leaf in the process.

Another volume in the sale that boasted an elaborate Rivière binding, one that included six inlaid oval watercolours of fish among gilt foliage, was an 1810 edition of Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton’s The Compleat Angler. It sold at £8000.

Earlier printed works on offer included a 1657 first of Jeremy Taylor’s …Collection of Polemical and Moral Discourses that lacked the portrait frontispiece, showed a couple of burn holes and was in a modern half calf binding.

As such, it does not sound a particularly attractive proposition, but this copy bore John Evelyn’s ownership inscription. In a 1978 Christie’s sale of books from his library it made £60, but estimated this time at £600-800, it sold at £6000.

Sold at what must surely be a record £12,000 was a 1689, first English edition of a major philosophical work, Spinoza’s Treatise Partly Theological, and Partly Philosophical. The only other copy of this edition I found in auction records was one sold for $130 almost 40 years ago.

Every witch way


A 1934 first of Dennis Wheatley’s occult classic 'The Devil Rides Out' that bears on the title-page a lengthy and fondly expressed presentation inscription to a friend, Dorothy Douglas Hamilton. Sold by Forum for a record £6500.

A 20th century English novel inspired by the occult and witchcraft is shown above, but bid to £4800 was a 1677 first of John Webster’s The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft…

Forum described it as a criticism of traditional views that started a polemical war with Henry More and Joseph Glanvill, who were convinced of the genuine existence of witches.

Sold at £8500 rather than a suggested £400-600 was an 1894-96 logbook kept by Midshipman JS Hardinge. His entries include accounts of actions in the Anglo- Zanzibar war, among them bombardment of the sultan’s palace.

A signed presentation copy of Harry Houdini’s The Unmasking of Robert Houdin sold at £1500 was reputed to be a gift to a Clapham book dealer from whom he sometimes bought playbills. The dealer’s wife had treated injuries Houdini sustained escaping from handcuffs in his act.

Another signed and inscribed first of that book made $3000 (£2240) in a December 12 sale held by US magic and conjuring specialist auction house Potter & Potter (20% buyer’s premium).