Tuesday - 21 October 2014

Byron auction catalogue raises the bidding high

05 April 1999Written by ATG Reporter

UK: ONE OF THE principal successes in the printed portion of this sale was a copy of the 1827 Evans auction catalogue of the Library of the Late Lord Byron....

Sewn through stab holes as issued and loose in contemporary wrappers, it was frayed to the edges and the title page was a bit soiled, but the bidding rose to a ten times estimate £3500 before the lot was knocked down to Chris Johnson. The first page of the catalogue, illustrated by Phillips in their own, contains as ‘Lot No.8, ‘Anacreon, Gr. et Lat. with the Autograph of Percy Bysshe Shelley......Glasg. 1783’.

Several other lots from various sections of the sale are described in other stories (see 'Illuminated manuscript of religious meditations', 'Booke of Christian Prayers' and 'Bidders go Wilde', above), but there is quite a lot more to cover and I will begin with the earlier printed books.

There were the familiar faults and deficiencies in a 1611 copy of the King James ‘He’ Bible which came up for sale at Phillips – principally the loss of six early leaves, including the general title, and water and dust staining that was more marked in the earlier sections – but in an early vellum binding, later rebacked in calf, it sold at £5800 to Lachman, while a 1527-ish Book of Hours from Germain Hardouyn’s specialist Paris press, lacking one leaf but with metal-cut illustrations illuminated in gold and colours and in a worn but contemporary binding with new endpapers, sold at £2000.

Sold at £650 to Quaritch was one of a limited number of copies – possibly as few as three – of John Rokewode’s Remarks on the Louterell Psalter of 1839 in which the six plates are hand coloured. It was in a contemporary russet morocco gilt binding by Hering.

Heritage bid £2200 for an 1892, first English edition, in original cloth, of The Story of a Puppet, or the Adventures of Pinnochio by ‘C. Collodi’, or Carlo Lorenzini. The illustration, top right shows one of C. Mazzanti’s pre-Disney images of the wooden boy.

Apart from Ackermann's Microcosm of London, illustrated bottom right (which was in a broken binding and whose 104 aquatints showed some light marginal browning and offsetting, but still managed £4200), plate collections of various sorts included a 1720 edition of Stow’s London containing 70 engraved maps, plans and plates, many of them double-page, which made £2200, and a 1799 French reprint of Sir William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei, ou Observations sur les Volcanoes des deux Siciles..., in later morocco backed boards and with later colouring and wash borders to 13 of the 59 engraved plates, which went to Shapero at £2900.

A 1745 second edition of Batty Langley’s The City and Country Builder’s and Workman’s Treasury of Designs which sold for £850 to Sotherans was of principal interest for the 200 engraved plates, but it was also an interesting association copy, having formerly belonged to Albert J. Thomas, who was at one time Edwin Lutyens’ general manager and a man closely involved in the Hampstead Garden Suburb and Paddington Town Hall projects.

An 1838 first of Thomas Telford’s posthumously published autobiography, the atlas volume containing 82 maps, plans and plates, many of them double page, went to Elton Engineering at £1650.

Among the natural history plate collections, a 1770 second edition of Lister’s Conchyliorum, in a broken binding and lacking half a dozen of the engraved shell plates, was sold at £2000 to Cherringtons; a Meyer Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs, seven vols. of 1842-50 containing 431, mostly coloured litho plates, was sold for £900 (Sotherans).

Signed by Harriet Beecher Stowe during a three-day visit to Scotland, a ‘new illustrated ‘ edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin issued by A&C Black in 1853 (but bound in later half morocco) was sold at £600 to Jarndyce.

A set of Kate Greenaway’s Almanacks for the years 1883-95 and the Almanack & Diary of 1897 (there was no issue for 1896) was sold at £2500 to Shapero. All except the 1897 items were in the original pictorial bindings and the Almanack for 1891 contained a presentation inscription and an original watercolour drawing of a small child in trademark gown and bonnet seated beside a daffodil.

The closing section of the sale was made up of autograph letters, manuscripts and documents, and sold at £2300 to Richard Sawyer was a letter written by Dr David Livingstone in March 1845, addressed to Robert Moffat, his newly acquired father-in-law – thanking him profusely for all his kindnesses and providing some news of the progress that he and his bride, Mary, were making, “en route for Mabotsa”, where Livingstone was to establish a station.

However, like most of the surviving letters to Moffat, this one had been mutilated. Moffat cut up the letters to provide autograph hunters with specimens of his famous son-in-law’s signature or hand, and included in this lot was a letter to a Mrs Wood, sending “a specimen of his Autography” and explaining “... his letters to me were general very long ones & I have therefore sent you only a portion of one, aware that a specimen of his writing is all that you require”.

One wonders what Moffat would have done to the letters had he ever read Livingstone’s decidedly unromantic and ungallant descriptions of his daughter? To one correspondent he described her as “a little thick black-haired girl, sturdy and all I want”, while to another he confided, “she is a good deal of an African in complexion with a stout stumpy body”.

A series of over a hundred letters sent by William Etty to his fellow painter and close friend George Franklin in the years 1822-49 brought a bid of £2200 from Maggs, and diaries of 1913-14 kept by Owen Rutter whilst he was a magistrate and District Officer in British North Borneo, describing tours of duty in the interior, sold at £720 to Shapero.

An annotated copy of the first English language edition of B. Traven’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, inscribed “annotated for serialisation” by the translator, Basil Creighton, was sold at £2050 to Heritage.

Great mystery still surrounds the identity of a man who claimed to be an American exile in Mexico but who wrote in German, and, though he once claimed to think in English, showed from such English text versions that he did supply to his editors at Knopf that English was definitely not a language that he had mastered. One candidate for the mysterious Traven, or at least one of the identities Traven is believed to have assumed, is that of Hal Croves, a supposed translator from Acapulco who attended the set during John Huston’s filming of the book and seemed to know an awful lot about the book and the author’s intentions, but was remarkably camera shy.

Creighton himself was very definitely a novelist and translator, having Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel, Hesse’s Steppenwolf and Alma Mahler’s memoirs to his credit, but he too was capable of dissembling. Despite having such distinguished translations to his name, he claimed not to be able to speak German and, according to a Times obituary, he would read his translations straight off from the original book or typescript, while his wife, Frances, struggled to keep up and get the words down.

Such an approach to translation sounds a touch cavalier, but Traven was one of Creighton’s greatest admirers, informing his publishers, “Creighton has said everything I wanted, but said it so much better”.

Phillips, London, March 12
Buyer’s Premium: 15/10 per cent

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Written by

ATG Reporter

Back to top