A single collection of some 217 lots that opened the Forum (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) sale of September 30 was one largely put together by Thomas Henshaw.
He was a noted alchemist, founder member of the Royal Society, soldier, and a diplomat who saw service in Denmark – something reflected in a number of the books offered – as well as a travelling companion and tutor to John Evelyn and an ‘Under Secretary of the French Tongue’ under Charles II, James II and William III.
These books on offer were the foundation of the Halsey library at Gaddesden Place in Hertfordshire and most of them bore a Gaddesden Library bookplate. Henshaw’s only surviving child, Anne, had married Thomas Halsey, MP for Gaddesden.
‘Letter of Mr Isaac Newton’
Top lot was a £65,000 binding (see bindings picture selection above).
Other notable successes from the property included, at £31,000, a lot presenting the first 11 volumes of Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions… of 1667-76, bound as six.
As Forum noted, one of the more important items was to be found in Vol. VI of 1671, in the form of ‘A Letter of Mr Isaac Newton… containing his New Theory about Light and Colors…’
Estimated at just £400-6000 but sold for £16,000 was Description d’Ukraine…, a 1660 French edition of a map produced by a Franco-Polish cartographer, engineer and architect, Guillaume Levasseur, Sieur de Beauplan, that had been first published in 1651.
An astronomical work, a 1627 first in a later calf binding of the Meteorologicum… of Libert Froidmont, a theologian and scientist of Liège, made £550, just above the suggested £300-400.
A bid of £7000 was successfully made for a 1698 first of Christiaan Huygens’ Kosmothereos, sive de Terris Coelestibus in a time-worn but contemporary binding. This work includes Huygens’ views on the possibility of life on other planets.
Bid to what would appear to an auction-record £8500 was a wide marginned copy of the 1655, first edition of the catalogue of Ole Worm’s famous collection of natural history specimens and other objects, a work compiled by his son as the Museum Wormianum….
A rare 1636 first of Worm’s Runir, seu Danica literatura Antiquissima, a systematic work on the Runic alphabet, made £2800.
From other properties came such attractions as a first state example of the 1645, first collected edition of John Milton’s Poems. The former Cortlandt F Bishop copy, in a much later blue morocco gilt binding by Bedford, it sold at a record £22,000.
A Rivière bound copy of an anonymous play of 1638, A Pleasant Comedie called Wily Beguilde, had once belonged to Mary Hyde and in 2004 made $1800 in a sale of her books held at Christie’s New York. On this occasion it realised £3800 online.
The modern firsts in the sale included some 80 lots featuring the works of Graham Greene that came from one private collection. It opened with a copy of his very first book, Babbling April, published in 1925 by Basil Blackwell of Oxford when Greene was just 21 and still an undergraduate there.
This collection of his poems was poorly received at the time and has never been re-printed, but the copy offered here sold online at £2600.
Other highlights included, at £3000, a 1930 first of Greene’s second novel, The Name of Action – another work that was disowned and never reprinted – and a 1938, first English edition of Brighton Rock. The latter, which made £6500, was in a jacket thought to date from 1940 – first-issue jackets being almost unknown at auction, it seems.
A copy of the New York first of that novel, which had appeared a month earlier than the English edition, sold at £1600.
The most expensive of the Greene lots was a copy of The Power and the Glory of 1940, in a rarely seen and well-preserved jacket, which sold at £8500 via an online bid.