Review of the September 2011 Antiquarian Book Sale

Published 16th September 2011

Camden's Brittanica

While the book sale may not have had quite the 'high' point of the last sale, it did include a number of interesting collections from a variety of vendors, with a number of exceptional prices achieved for quality individual items.

Collections of maritime, military, travel and literature all sold well, while an unusual collection of books on agricultural subjects despite not being in the best of condition sold with little difficulty.

There was a surprise in the literature section when a collection of five first editions by JG Farrell, two of which were signed author presentation copies, saw two determined bidders take the final hammer price to £1,100. Farrell is known for his historical fiction, notably the Empire Trilogy, including The Siege of Krishnapur which won the 1973 Booker Prize. His career was tragically cut short at the age of 44 when he drowned in a fishing accident; consequently it is thought presentation copies by him are rarely found.

Another collection this time in the children's section created interest, when 24 first editions in their all important dustwrappers, with many others without, of the ever popular 'Chalet School' stories by Elinor Brent-Dyer, produced a winning telephone bid of £920.

A magnificent set of four volumes of the Canterbury Tales all beautifully illustrated by Eric Gill, and published at the Golden Cockerel Press in 1929, formerly in the library of the eminent archaeologist Stuart Piggott, and including a signed letter from Gill, predictably fetched an impressive £3,400.

Winston Churchill as ever was keenly sought after, with three of his important early works, The River War, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, and London to Ladysmith, appearing in two separate lots; while not in tiptop condition they still fetched £820 respectively.

Quality topographical works seem ever popular, with a successful bid of £720 for Chauncy's Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire (1700). William Stukeley's Itinerarium Curiosum (1776) fetching £620, and Camden's Britannia (1695), illustrated with 46 beautifully hand coloured maps by Robert Morden £2,200.

In the travel section an important three-volume set, Sir John Marshall's, Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus (1931), with the provenance of the Dartington Hall Trust achieved an impressive £1,300.

Natural history books illustrated with beautiful hand-coloured plates still prove to be a sound investment in these difficult times, with seven volumes of Jardine's Ornithology fetching £380. John Miller's Illustratio Systematis Sexualis Linnaei, illustrated with 108 hand-coloured plates in a fairly scruffy state finally selling for one of the highest prices on the day: £3,100. Humphrey & Westwood's British Butterflies and their Transformations made £380; and Robert Warner's The Orchid Annual, despite being volume two only, but illustrated with 48 splendid hand-coloured lithographs, selling for £680.

Mention should be made of a 17th century scientific manuscript purchased by an online bidder for £900. With a Le Puy, France provenance, it would appear to have been a Catholic survey of all the sciences of the period and earlier, taken from such authorities as Kepler, Copernicus, Bonaventura, etc.

The sale ended with a fine collection of 17th century maps, including John Speed maps of Sussex, Surrey, and Devon. However the most unusual map (illustrated on the front cover of the catalogue) was a 1676 Robert Morden playing card map of Devon, being the nine of diamonds. Originally published in a full pack of playing card maps of The Countries of England and Wales, by their ephemeral nature few still survive, so it was no surprise when this small map sold for £500.

Written by Roger Collicott (Book Specialist)
16th September 2011


  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Book Sale
  • Honiton
  • Antiquarian Books
  • Maps
  • Manuscripts

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