The top lot in an August 23 sale held by Sworders (25% buyer’s premium) was the remarkable early work on swan markings that sold for £54,000 and starred on the front cover of ATG No 2557, but the auction in Stansted Mountfitchet held plenty of other attractions.
One of the older lots on offer was an illuminated manuscript dating from 1584. A Gradual, a response sung or recited in the Mass, it was described as having been written and illuminated by a nun at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Florence.
As the illustration above shows, illuminated letters were its principal appeal and there were some 800 of them in all. In a 16th or 17th century blind-stamped leather binding, the spine of which was a later replacement, it sold at £9000.
Several of the lots being offered by Sworders came from the Peter & Pat Crofts Collection, among them a beautifully drawn and coloured pedigree roll of undeclared vintage that recorded members of the noble Everingham family from 1105 to 1548. It realised £6500.
Another of the those Crofts Collection lots, and again sold at £6500, was an 1813, second edition of John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam…, a work first published in 1796.
Illustrated with 81 hand-coloured plates and maps, 16 of which, the catalogue noted, were engraved by William Blake, it was in what was thought to be a fairly recent binding of half leather and marbled boards.
Bid to £26,000 was a first edition, first impression set of JRR Tolkien’s Lords of the Rings trilogy of 1954-55. The dust jackets of the three volumes were a little dust soiled and there was a tear to the spine of one of them, but overall the lot was defined as one that offered a fine and unread set.
Previewed in ATG No 2555, a 2013 first edition of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a work by JK Rowling that was initially issued under the name of Robert Galbraith, was sold at £1200.
The Sworders catalogue entry noted that only 250 copies were said to have been signed as such before the creator of the Harry Potter books was unmasked as the true author.
She had secretly published the crime novel under the guise of the male debut writer.
The fictitious author was supposed to have been a former plain-clothes Royal Military Police investigator who had left the armed forces in 2003 to work in the civilian security industry.
The Cuckoo’s Calling, about a war veteran turned private investigator called Cormoran Strike, was reasonably well reviewed at the time but had sold fewer than 1500 copies before the secret was blown by The Sunday Times in July.
Within hours, it had risen more than 5000 places to top Amazon’s sales list.