British manuscripts and fine bindings played a major part in a Christie’s New York sale (26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) auction that ended on October 6 and offered works from the library of Edward R Leahy.
Christie’s billed the sale as comprising the “finest collection of modern illuminated manuscripts and jewelled and other magnificent bindings since the auction of Phoebe Boyle nearly a century ago”. Fourteen lots from Boyle’s collection were offered in this auction and the names of a great many other well-known collectors featured in the provenance notes.
Amassed over several decades by Leahy, an American lawyer and businessman, the sale also featured “important incunabula, English literature from Spenser to Tolkien with a particularly deep well of Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson and his circle, works relating to Captain Bligh and the Mutiny on the Bounty”, and a fine collection of horror works, said Christie’s.
Illustrated here are a number of the exceptional lots featured in the Leahy sale, one that raised a premium-inclusive overall total of $3.94m (£3.47m).
Further highlights included:
• An 1818 first in a much later binding of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein… that was given to either Rudolph Ackermann, who in 1827 had published, anonymously, her story ‘Lacy De Vere’ in his literary annual Forget Me Not, or perhaps to his then teenage son, Adolphus, whose signature it bears. It sold at $180,000 (£158,730).
• Sold at $105,000 (£92,590) was a copy of the 1746, first English translation of Machiavelli’s The Prince in a simple but fine contemporary binding.
• A 1632, second folio, first issue of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies – which also saw the first appearance in print of a work by John Milton, a 16 verse epitaph for Shakespeare – took $220,000 (£194,005).
• Arthur Conan Doyle’s own, 24pp manuscript account of his seven-month voyage in 1880 as a 20-year-old, third-year medical student serving as a ship’s surgeon on an Arctic whaler was sold at $17,000 (£14,990).
• Last offered at auction in 1991, at Sotheby’s New York and as part of the Richard Manney library, a rare 1722 first edition of The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, the superb ex-Litchfield- Borowitz copy in a restored contemporary binding, was bid to $100,000 (£88,185). It is one of only three first edition copies seen at auction in the last 30 years.