Sold online for £130,000 in London, a copy of a famous American collection of essays published in 1777-78 as The Federalist had remained in the original purchaser’s family ever since, though in more recent times it had crossed the Atlantic under that same ownership.
It topped the bidding at a Forum (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) sale of March 25.
Uniformly bound in contemporary tree calf gilt, the two volumes of this famous work contain the essays and articles written, under the pseudonym ‘Publius’, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution.
Bearing his signature and bookplates, this was a copy acquired new by William Bedlow, a former sea captain and merchant, then resident in New York, who had taken up an active role in public duties in support of the revolutionary cause.
A few years ago a copy of this famous work made $260,000 in New York, but the record was set at an altogether different level back in 1990, when George Washington’s copy took $1.3m at Sotheby’s New York.
John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government… has made some very high prices in first edition form of 1690, but until now the few second edition copies of 1694 noted in auction records seem to have peaked at £900.
The Forum example lacked the upper cover of its period binding and the text block was split in two, but for some reason, unknown to the auction house or me, bidding reached £9000.
A disbound copy of Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers, as adapted and revised for the stage by Lewis Theobald, was another surprise at £6000, rather than the suggested £500-700. The only other copy I found in auction records was one sold for £110 back in 1994.
Based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, it claims on the title-page to have been written originally by Shakespeare, but though Theobald was accused by Alexander Pope and other contemporary and later critics of forgery, more recent studies have suggested that it is an adaptation of ‘The History of Cardeno’, a collaborative work by Shakespeare and William Fletcher.
Published in 1795 and seemingly quite rare, an anonymous and now disbound copy of a work whose title begins Remarks on Cruelty to Animals… and goes on to argue in favour of a vegetarian rather than flesh-eating diet sold at £1400.
Among private press and limited editions, one of 500 paper copies of the Doves Press English Bible of 1903-05, bound as five volumes in near contemporary crushed burgundy morocco gilt by Stikeman and bearing the library label of William Randolph Hearst, made £8500.
From Liverpool library
Bid to £16,000 was a lot offering only the second and third volumes of Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica of 1912-13.
They were ex-Liverpool Public Library copies that contained assorted ink stamps and bookplates, and the hinges of the cloth bindings were starting or weak. That didn’t sound too promising, but sales of the 750 copies of the first volume were poor and the two later volumes were restricted to just 500 copies.
A couple of exceptional complete sets have made very high sums, but other than those, only one other complete set has made a little more than this Vols II & III set.
An 1858 first of Sketches of Delhi taken during the Siege, a folio work illustrated with 14 litho plates after Major John Turnbull, ADC to the British commander at the time of the Indian Mutiny, realised £6000.
A lot that attracted much interest before selling at £5500 to a Greek bidder was an album of 122 photographs documenting Cretan resistance to the German occupation of the island during the Second World War.
It was compiled and annotated by Major John Smith-Hughes, who was taken captive before he could join the 20,000 other troops being evacuated by the Royal Navy after the island’s seizure by Germany – though he did later escape with the assistance of George Psychoundakis, a resistance fighter known as ‘The Cretan Runner’.
Smith-Hughes was later summoned to SOE’s Cairo headquarters and returned to Crete with Ralph Stockbridge of MI6 to undertake intelligence work.