Review of September 2010 Book, Prints and Map Sale

Published 26th October 2010

Greenwood's Map of Devonshire

Greenwood's Map of Devonshire

Coming just one day after the full extent of the Irish banking crisis was revealed, this was not perhaps the best backdrop for the sale of the Robert Lynd collection of Irish literature; however, as it turned out, prices were not at all affected by this. This was also reflected throughout the sale with rare and individual items attracting spirited bidding throughout the 479 lot book sale.

The highpoint of the sale was the first Dublin edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the first and greatest classic of modern economics, still regarded as the pivotal work.

Published in 1776 in the same year as the first London edition, as a pirated edition, complete but in a worn contemporary binding, this highly important volume finally fell at an impressive £10,500.

Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations

The Highpoint of the Sale: First Dublin Edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.

From the Robert Lynd collection came a first edition published by the Cuala Press in 1917 of WB Yeats' The Wild Swans at Coole, limited to 400 copies: it was no surprise that this copy attracted a winning telephone bid of £550. Robert Lynd was an Irish Nationalist, writer, essayists and critic, friend and associate of James Joyce and numerous other Irish writers. Many books from this collection contained interesting presentation inscriptions from these writers to Lynd. Such was Dora Sigerson's Love of Ireland limited to just 50 copies which sold for £230.

Elsewhere in the sale a rare catalogue of Belleek Pottery c1928 sold for £130. The charmingly titled Fairyland a series of pictures from the elf-world, with beautiful colour illustrations by Richard Doyle (the uncle of Arthur Conan Doyle), despite loose pages but complete, this second edition dated 1875 sold for £300. Two beautiful illustrated editions by the ever popular Arthur Rackham also commanded strong prices, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1928) £160, and A Midsummer-Night's Dream (1908) £240.

An early Bible c1633 despite lacking the general title-page and missing other pages sold for £300. Among a small collection of other early English books, a 1652 first edition of Sir Fulke Greville's Life of the Renowned Sir Philip Sidney stands out: in a fine half green morocco binding, from the Warwick Castle collection, this fine copy fetched £350. A first of Michael Drayton's Poems (1637), despite a rather boring modern binding and shaved in the for-margin, fetched £400.

Local books as always were popular. From the library of the leading expert on Devon prints came a fabulously extra-illustrated copy of Lyson's Magna Britannia ... Devonshire (1822), bound in four large quarto volumes, illustrated with over 300 additional maps and prints: this magnificent work finally fell to another eager telephone bidder at £680.

Lyson's Magna Britannia for the County of Devon

Lyson's Magna Britannia for the County of Devon fetched £680 at the book auction held in Honiton.

From the same collection Greenwoods' magnificent large scale map of the County of Devon sold for a very respectable £800. This map when published in 1827 sold for three guineas, considerably more than the seven shillings and sixpence charged by the Ordnance Survey for their first large scale survey of the county. Greenwoods' maps are masterpieces of surveying and engraving techniques, with beautiful hand colouring. Considering the speed at which the maps were made - surveying of the county took place in 1825-26 - their accuracy is remarkable. They mark boundaries of the county, hundreds, and parishes by varying engraved lines, market towns, parishes, villages, towns, and places that send members to Parliament, turnpike roads, crossroads, toll bars, churches and chapels, castles and priories, common lands, rivers and brooks, woods, parks, and pleasure gardens, wind and water mills, rising ground and hills, railways such as the Haytor granite railway and the Plymouth Railway to Princetown. Distances between towns are marked in miles. Greenwoods' map is a landmark in the surveying of the county of Devon.

Maps and prints were a popular addition to this sale, an intriguing collection of small Cipriani and Bartolozzi engravings along with a small collection of autographed letters by relatively minor nineteenth century figures sold for £430. A collection of 17th century maps by William Kip from the 1637 edition of Camden's Britannia sold for £320. A large handsome Regency scrap album containing a number of rare late eighteenth century hand coloured flower prints sold for £560.

While generally prices were buoyant especially for the highpoints, the failure of a number of lower value lots, and some lots with overly ambitious reserves contributed to a higher than usual number of unsold items.

The next book sale is scheduled for March 2011, and already has a strong section of art books, early printed books, and a rare contemporary Captain Cook item, which contains original actual samples of fabric materials collected on his voyage to the Southern Hemisphere.


  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Dowell Street, Honiton, Devon
  • September 2010 Book, Prints and Map Sale

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