Beeleigh Abbey library

The Foyle library at Beeleigh Abbey.

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Foyle, entrepreneur and philanthropist, was the grandson of William Foyle - the founder of Foyle’s famous bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road.

Christopher died in August 2022 and the library at Beeleigh Abbey, Essex, will now be auctioned by Dominic Winter across two sales on September 27 and January 31, 2024.

Memorial service for Christopher Foyle

A copy of the memorial service for the late Christopher Foyle.

The abbey, a 12th century monastery near Maldon, was bought by William Foyle during the Second World War and housed his extensive collection of books and manuscripts.

Kept in the family

When Christopher’s aunt (Christina, who had run Foyle's) died in 1999 she left instructions that the collection should be sold. However, Christopher and his wife Cathy decided to buy as much as they could. He not only managed to acquire a lot of the books by private treaty before the sale was catalogued by Christie’s, but he also managed to buy further items at the auction itself in 2000.

Beeleigh Abbey

The abbey belonged to the Order of Premonstratensian or White Canons and this Flemish c.1450- 75 manuscript psalter on vellum in Latin is connected to this heritage. One of six Books of Hours in the Dominic Winter sale, it is estimated at £7000-10,000.

The Dominic Winter sale will include early editions of English literature, miniature books, illuminated medieval and rare Tudor manuscripts, seals, authors’ letters, paintings and drawings as well as books from Beeleigh Abbey Books (Foyle’s rare book business).

Mary I signed document

This document is an appeal for reinforcements to be raised for the defence of Calais, signed by Mary I and dated January 1558, the day on which the city fell to the French. It is estimated at £15,000-20,000 at Dominic Winter.

Christopher Foyle took control of the family-owned bookseller in 1999 and it underwent a makeover and expansion before it was sold to Waterstones in 2018.

Beeleigh Abbey

Beeleigh Abbey, a 12th-century monastery near Maldon, was bought by William Foyle during the second world war and housed his extensive collection of books and manuscripts.

Beeleigh Abbey library

A detail of the Beeleigh Abbey libary.

Beeleigh Abbey chapel

A detail in the Beeleigh Abbey chapel.

Civil War document

The library is also strong in Essex history, both in terms of books and documents, with much relating to the Civil War and to the 2nd and 3rd Earls of Essex. This volume comprises 27 rare pamphlets recording the events during the English Civil War, particularly in Colchester, Essex, and also referring to related military movements and events during that time. The sammelband of 27 English Civil War pamphlets is estimated at £5000-8000 at Dominic Winter.

Richard Burton Meccah book

Also among the collection is books Christopher purchased, often with a travel theme. At the Sotheby’s sale of the Library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching in 2014-15 he had purchased this Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah by Sir Richard Burton. It is estimated at £5000-8000 at Dominic Winter.

Cosway binding book

Napoleon and the Fair Sex, translated from the French of Frederic Masson, 1st edition in English, 1894. Finely bound in a later Cosway-style red full morocco it is estimated at £1000-1500 at Dominic Winter.