Formed by the late Dr Simon McMinn of Cheltenham, a 169-lot collection of private press and limited-edition works opened a November 25 auction held by Forum (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium).
Two are noted here. The earlier of them is a 1931-32, Gregynog Press edition of The Fables of Esope in which William Caxton’s 15th century translation from a French text is illustrated with wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker. An out-of-series copy from an edition of 250, it made £3200.
An even more recent lot – from 2009 – came in the form of Russell Maret’s Aethewold Etc…, an alphabet in the form of a writing manual. Each letter is inspired by a different printer or typographer from the Middle Ages to the present day.
One of 44 signed examples from this award-winning edition of just 55 copies, it sold at £7500 rather than the suggested £400-600.
From the 535 lots that made up the Forum sale, those that follow will give some notion of the wide range of material offered.
Bid online to £2200 was a 92pp manuscript called ‘The Fiery Serpent of Folkestone’ that probably dates from c.1830, around eight years prior to being first printed, albeit in slightly different form, by Rigden of Dover.
Here accomplished on the pages of a red-ruled cashbook, it is a satirical ballad that ridiculed the simpletons of the Kent seaside town by mocking their belief that a hideous serpent lived in Folkestone’s drains.
Anthony Trollope’s works were well represented, both in original parts issues and in bound form, and the 20 parts that made up the original 1874-75 issue of one his best loved works, The Way We live Now, realised £3500.
Doubling its high estimate at £1400 was an 1894 three-decker novel called A Daughter of Music.
Involving a curse that manifests itself through music, it purports to be by a ‘G Colmore’, but was really the work of Gertrude Baillie Weaver, a writer now best remembered for a 1911 novel called Suffragette Sally.
Also published in 1894 was a well-known edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx, one that was illustrated and otherwise designed by the author’s artist and typographer friend, Charles Ricketts.
A fine copy with no bowing to the handsome, gilt decorated vellum binding, this example of a work long regarded as a landmark of book production of the last decade of the 19th century made £5500.
Among more modern firsts was a copy of Dorothy Hartley’s Food in England, published in 1954 but a book that had taken her 30 years to complete. Bearing a presentation inscription in her hand, it made £1300.
CS Lewis trilogy
A first edition set of the ‘Space Trilogy’ of CS Lewis showed defects to the dust jackets, but the first part, Out of the Silent Planet of 1938, which was dedicated to the author’s elder brother, Warren, contains a witty poem that the dedicatee added to a front free endpaper when later presenting it to a friend.
The other books in the trilogy, which here sold at £11,000 to an internet bidder, are Perelandra of 1943 and That Hideous Strength of 1945.
A number of the sale’s higher bids were made for early printed works, though the day’s top lot, dating from the second half of the 15th century and probably produced in Bruges, was a manuscript prayer book exhibiting illumination and decoration in the style of a Flemish master, William Vrelant. It made £72,000.
Though a manuscript that was previously sold by Tajan of Paris in 2003 and again at Sotheby’s in the following year, it was said to have been acquired privately by the Forum consignor.
Once part of the great John Rylands library and seen twice at Sotheby’s in the late 1980s, selling at just £1100 on the last occasion, a good copy of the 1570, first English translation of Euclid’s Elements of Geometrie sold at £30,000.
That translation was the work of Sir Henry Billingsley, but it is the preface by John Dee that is this edition’s much more famous claim to fame.
A 1588, first English edition of Lucas Janzoon Waghenaer’s The Mariner’s Mirrour… – an essential guide for English mariners that saw its creator’s name anglicised as Waggoner and become synonymous with any volume of sea charts – sold at £35,000.
Finally, note of an 1859 first of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species…, one with a Darwin family collection but in a modern blue morocco gilt binding with the original cloth covers serving as pastedowns.
It made £48,000 online.