In a now rather tattered jacket, this copy of 'William Does his Bit' of 1941 sold for £1500 at Sotheby’s. It was inscribed by Richmal Crompton for her by then much more grown-up nephew, Thomas, who as a boy had been the model for William (but was by then working as a bank clerk).

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

In the event, a number of them fell some way short of expectations – but a few produced much higher bids than had been suggested.

They were formerly in the collection of Richmal’s sister Gwen and had passed by descent to her son and daughter, Thomas and Margaret Disher.

The first and earliest of the group to be offered was a copy of Still – William of 1925, the fifth of the books to appear and one that bore the inscription “Mother/with all the author’s love…”.

There was no jacket, the fore-edge was spotted, the spine faded and one one of the hinges was split, but against an estimate of £300-400 it sold for £4500.

Again in slightly discoloured but original cloth, a copy of William the Outlaw of 1927, inscribed by its author to her sister and bearing a similar estimate, realised £3800, while bid to £1800 against a rather bolder valuation of £600-800 was a copy of William – the Rebel of 1933.

The binding of this work was marked and discoloured, but this was a copy that had been inscribed for Crompton’s nephew, the scrubby, tousle-haired, inky fingered little schoolboy that she immortalised as William.

This Sotheby’s sale on July 12-20 offered a mix of 19th and 20th century books and manuscripts, among them two leaves from Walter Scott’s 1813-14 working manuscript for his first novel, Waverley, that sold at £22,000. A very early football rule book that brought the day’s highest bid of £45,000 featured as a Pick of the Week in ATG No 2503.