Published 24th July 2013
The Books and Manuscripts Department is fielding the usual broad selection of book subject areas in our second Antiquarian Book Auction of 2013, which will also include a very interesting, single-owner collection of art and poetry books from the library of the late St Ives artist Michael Seward Snow (1930-2002), which will be a particular highlight. The sale also includes an interesting group of early cookery books.
There is a bound collection of 21 penny dreadfuls in this sale entitled Tales of Drama, which is carrying an estimate of £300-£350. 'Penny Dreadfuls' were a form of low-brow entertainment produced in the 19th century for a newly-literate working class. These were generally melodramatic tales of a sensational nature produced on cheap paper with simple illustrations.
The ongoing popular interest in Jane Austen, fired by many highly-regarded film and television versions of her work, means that even the most modest editions will readily find buyers. A cut above this is a set included in this sale, published by Dent in 1893 and estimated at between £80 and £120 – within most people's budgets, but still a well-produced and attractive set of her works.
Early cookery seems to be an area of collecting that is increasing in popularity, again possibly because of the raised profiles of 'celebrity chefs' and the extraordinary proliferation of 'foodie' television programmes. An interesting lot in this sale is William Salmon's Family Dictionary: or Household Companion, published in 1705 and with an auction estimate of £400-£500.
Natural History is an ever-popular collecting area. We are a nation that prides itself on its green fingers and love of nature, so the many beautifully-illustrated works in this subject area in the 19th century retain their popularity. Such a work is Lord Lilford's Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands, a seven-volume set published from 1891-1897 (28758/6) and estimated at £700-£1,000. Also noteworthy are The Toilet of Flora published in 1775 (estimated at £200-£300) and William Beebe's Monograph of the Pheasants - a four-volume set published in 1918 (estimated at £600-£800).
Stories of discovery and exploration continue to fire folk's imaginations even in an era such as our own where there is not much left on the planet to explore. Such a story is to be found in Sir James Clark Ross' Voyage of Discovery and Research... Antarctic Regions, a two-volume set published in 1847 and with an estimate of £800-£1,200.
Other significant lots in the sale include the Centenary edition of the works of Sir Winston Churchill, 38 volumes, estimated to fetch between £1,500 and £2,000 in the sale.
An especial treasure is a handwritten letter from Dylan Thomas, which is a humorous missive about joining a club and dating from 1948.