A January double bill of sales in South Cerney got the new year for Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) off to a busy start.
Catalogues for the January 20-21 sales – which, like major Forum sales and those of a few other salerooms around the country, are still printed – ran to more than 900 lots in all, many of them multiples.
Travel and topography, literature, cookery and science were all among the attractions of the first day.
A pair of uniformly bound, ex-West Dean (Chichester) library copies of James Morier’s 1812 and 1818 accounts of his two journeys through …Persia, Armenia and Asia Minor to Constantinople made £2800.
Formerly in the collection of the Schlagenweit brothers, German explorers of India and Central Asia, an 1851 first of The Sundhya or the Daily Prayers of the Brahmins by Sophia Charlotte Belmos realised £3200.
Illustrated with 24 hand coloured litho plates, this unusual work showed some spotting and dampstaining but rarity was on its side. Belnos’ husband was a French miniaturist and lithographer and though this work was printed in London, his Calcutta business seems to have been continued after his death by his widow.
Among the maps a lot of Polish material was to be found once more. A 1562, Venetian first edition of a Gastaldi map that has been called the earliest map of Poland – though one that also takes in Ukraine, the Crimea and the Baltic – was one of the day’s best sellers at £7200.
Dating from 1617 or later, a large folding and coloured panorama of Cracow from a copy of Braun & Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, almost 5ft long, sold at £2700.
Among British maps, one attraction was a 1786, second edition of Isaac Taylor’s Map of the County of Gloucester.
Sectionalised on linen, this large outline coloured folding map with five inset vignettes of castles and other buildings and a large allegorical cartouche sold at £3000.
Previewed in ATG No 2475, a very rare first of James Robert’s The Sportsman’s Pocket Companion of c.1760, engraved throughout and featuring 40 portraits of racehorses and accompanying text, realised £2500.
One lot with a rather sad background offered a pair of uncoloured litho portraits by John Hayter of Tamehameha II and Tamehamalu, the young king and queen of the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii.
Both in their 20s, the couple visited England in 1824, hoping to get the islands placed under British protection.
Although they proved a great attraction to British society and their visits to the theatre, the opera and exhibitions were avidly reported, the visit proved fatal to their health.
Both contracted measles, a disease to which they would never have been exposed, and died. King George IV met other members of the mission and promised British protection before the frigate HMS Blonde took the delegation and the remains of their deceased sovereigns back to their islands.
A second print of the couple by JW Gear, showing them at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and in which they are named as King Rheo Rhio and Queen Kamehameha and seen in company with Dame Poki and others, was also part of the lot, which sold at £2100.
Bid to £1650 was a wonderful 3ft 3in (99cm) tall, three-sheet engraved print of the original Eddystone Lighthouse…, dating from c.1700.
As its creator explains: “This draught was made & engraven by Henry Winstanley of Littlebury, Gent. and is sold at his Waterworks; where also is to be seen at any time ye Modle of ye said Building & principal Roomes for six pence a peice.”
A timber building completed in 1699 and the first of four lights to be built on the Eddystone Rocks, a major hazard to shipping some nine miles off Rame Head at the approach to Plymouth Sound, it was the project of a successful businessman and ship owner who had lost two ships on the those rocks.
Sadly, on a November night in 1703 a violent storm destroyed the lighthouse, killing the light-keepers, the workmen and Winstanley himself.
Sold to an online bidder at £2000 – 10 times the low estimate – was George Hunt’s 1836 View on the Thames, showing Goding’s New Lion Ale Brewery… and other buildings.
By then derelict, the old brewery was demolished in 1949 and in its place now stands the Royal Festival Hall. All that remains is a large Coadstone lion, now known as the South Bank Lion.
Woolf’s likes and dislikes
Really and Truly…, an exercise in …Literary Confessions published in 1915 that encouraged users to reveal their likes and dislikes by answering a series of 39 questions proved one of the more expensive lots of the whole January 20-21 auction.
Sold via thesaleroom.com at £21,000 on the second day, this curious work was the creation of a ‘A Late-Victorian’, a certain CF, and contained 25 identical double-page questionnaires, the first nine of which had been completed.
Rose Macaulay, Rebecca West, Hilaire Belloc and Virginia Woolf were among the more familiar figures to complete the task – the latter in her favoured purple ink.
Woolf names Thomas Hardy as both the best and worst living English novelist, and Belloc as the most overrated – though it should perhaps be noted that while the pages are are now open, they were originally sealed with red wax or tape after completion.
Walter Scott is Woolf’s most underrated English author, dead or alive, and Jane Austen her pick for the best deceased English novelist.
To the final question, asking which contemporary poet or prose writer’s work is most likely to be read 25 years hence, she answers “none, except Max Beerbohm as a whole; many in parts”. Beerbohm proved a particular favourite with several of those who completed the questionnaire.
The Gloucestershire saleroom noted that there appeared to be little consensus on anything else, other than that Shakespeare was the greatest writer who ever lived – though Belloc voted for Homer and Macaulay decided that she didn’t know.
Plato, Catullus, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Milton and Shaw were among other favourites, but Chaucer, Dickens, George Eliot and Henry James made only single appearances, said the cataloguer, and Virgil and John Donne none at all.
Cards and fairy tales
The sale’s opening section, presenting children’s books, games and playing cards, attracted an online bid of £1600 for a complete deck of a stipple engraved transformation playing cards as first published in 1805 by JF Cotta of Tübingen, one of which provided the catalogue cover illustration.
Sold at £1700 was a 1779 collection of fairy tales printed in Newcastle, The Mirror; or a Looking-Glass for Young People…
It was not in the best condition but had once belonged to Thomas Bewick and later passed to his daughter. Five of the woodcuts are regarded as his own work and one of them, signed JB, is thought to be the earliest published example of a signed Bewick woodcut.
Bound as four, the first seven volumes of The Century Guild Hobby Horse, an influential if irregularly published journal on the arts, design and literary matters dating from the years 1886-92, realised £3600.
Sold online at £11,500 was a response from JRR Tolkien to a request from a Miss Duncan for possible examination questions on the Old English period. An accompanying note explained he had responded in haste because of other commitments, but he still managed three typed and corrected pages of a “mixed bag” of 50 questions in all.
Boasting a first issue jacket, a 1930 first of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, his second novel and a satire on the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the era, made £6000 among later literary lots.
Sold at a record £1450 was an inscribed presentation copy of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. The writer had moved to the US in the 1940s with her husband, a conscientious objector, and it was homesickness that inspired her first novel, published by Little Brown of Boston in 1948, a year before the English first appeared.
The sale’s most expensive novel was to be found among the Ian Fleming books: a 1953 first issue in a good jacket of Casino Royale that realised £29,000.
A 1986 first of Terry Pratchett’s second ‘Discworld’ novel, The Light Fantastic, was a record breaker, at £1150.