It sold for £60,000 at Bonhams (27.5/25/2/14.5% buyer’s premium) on March 23.
The initials are those of the poet Shelley, an admirer of the Italian poet’s work, and the recipient was his wife’s stepsister Clara, or Claire, Clairmont.
In 1814 Clairmont had accompanied Mary in her elopement with the poet to the continent, and later arranged the visit to Lake Geneva where Shelley and Byron began their lifelong literary relationship and Mary began writing Frankenstein.
It was also during that summer that Clara discovered that she was pregnant by Byron and in January 1817 was delivered of a daughter, Allegra, who lived only a few years.
The nature of Shelley’s relationship with Claire or Clara has long been debated. To Constantia Singing, a poem he wrote for her in 1817, said the cataloguer, burns with longing: “My heart is quivering like a flame: / morning dew that in the sun dies, / I am dissolved in these consuming ecstasies.”
Shelley drowned off the coast of Sardinia in 1822, but Clara lived until 1879.
The binding bears the arms of William Ponsonby, 1st Baron De Mauley (1787-1855), whose sister, the novelist Lady Caroline Lamb, also had a love affair with Byron – famously describing him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”.
Bonhams could trace only nine books bearing Shelley’s presentation inscriptions, at least six of which are now in institutional collections.
Sold at £20,000 was an 1897 first of Kidnapped in London: Being the Story of my Capture By, Detention At, and Release from The Chinese Legation, a wry account of those events by the first president and founding father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat Sen.
It was accompanied by a letter to Felix Volkhovsky, a Russian political in exile in London and friend, who had spent seven years in solitary confinement in St Petersburg and 11 years as an exile in Siberia before managing to escape to London, via Canada.
In a Dominic Winter (24% buyer’s premium) sale of April 6-7, a sheet of notepaper headed ‘14 Evelyn Gardens. S.W.’ that bears Sun Yat Sen’s signature in both Western and Chinese characters and is also dated in his hand for April 11, 1897, sold at £6200 to an online bidder.
The real Miss Moneypenny
At Bonhams, copies of the real Miss Moneypenny’s warmly inscribed firsts of two of Ian Fleming’s 007 tales sold at £20,000 and £19,000 respectively.
Written during his annual stays at his home in Jamaica, Fleming’s books would then be sent for typing up to his secretary, Una Trueblood, who in due course would receive suitably inscribed copies.
A 1957 first of From Russia with Love was inscribed “To Una who will at last get to the end!…”, while a 1959 first of Goldfinger went to “To Una, who again wrote the whole thing…”
Trueblood once recalled that Fleming always said he only wrote Casino Royale, the first Bond book, because while on one flight to Jamaica he read such a bad, boring thriller that he thought he could do better himself.
Her surname was borrowed by Fleming for the character Mary Trueblood, who as a secretary to John Strangways, head of the British Secret Service’s Caribbean station in his 1958 novel Dr No, comes to a bloody end – stabbed to death.