Published 18th March 2013
The Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood Book Sale on the 20th February 2013 was as exciting an affair as ever. The presence of Internet bidding via the-saleroom.com ensures active interest from all over the world and exceptional prices are being regularly achieved.
As anticipated, the star lot was a Bible from the family of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This included inscriptions by the poet himself as well as his family. Some spirited bidding led to a hammer price of £5,500, some way above top estimate.
Melmoth the Wanderer is a novel published in 1820. It tells the story of a man who makes a pact with the devil for an extra 150 years of life (usual price). He spends that time wandering the world to find someone who will take on that pact for him. An interesting side note is that after his release from prison, Oscar Wilde assumed the name of Sebastian Melmoth while he wandered around Europe looking for a home. A copy of the first edition of this work by Charles Maturin sold comfortably within estimate for £2,100.
Winston Churchill continues to enthuse collectors as much as ever, with his signature and association material being especially prized. Thus a set of his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, which was especially signed for AJ Moles, attracted a lot of attention. Moles had been Chief Accountant at the Palace of Westminster and this set was presented to him on his retirement. Despite the first volume not being a first edition, the set reached a fine price of £3,000. An added feature of this lot was Moles' own briefcase. It is little quirky features like this that can give a lot a very personal appeal.
The Coleridge family made another appearance in the sale with a collection of papers, documents and letters belonging to William Hart Coleridge, who was Samuel Taylor Coleridge's nephew and was Bishop of Barbados in the early to mid 19th century. This little insight into Colonial history fetched £3,200 - some ten times its original estimate.
Barbados itself featured again in a superb album of photographs dating from the 19th century, which also included views of Yosemite, Salt Lake City and Niagra. This very attractively-bound album fetched £1,350 demonstrating the continued rise of photography as an important area of collecting.
Perhaps the most historically-important lots in this sale were the letters which came down by direct descent from John Spottiswoode, Lord Chancellor of Scotland in the early 17th century, and his family. Included in this rare and important group were three documents in Spottiswoode's hand (£260), a document signed by Charles I (£1,250) and a letter probably in the hand of James Francis Edward Stuart (the 'Old Pretender'), which states the rights of the Stuarts over the Hanovers to the English throne (£1,600).
The prints and maps sections of these sales continues to grow and there was a good selection on offer here from most of the famous names: a nice map of Oxfordshire by Thomas Kitchen fetched £90, with a map of Shropshire by Robert Morden fetching a modest £45. There is room for growth in the map market – interested purchasers please note!