PRINTED ephemera, often disregarded detritus, is not generally highly valued material. But should it chance to survive, it can acquire socio-historical and even monetary value.
A particularly good example turned up at Bonhams Bond Street
recently when a man brought in what the auctioneers described as a
"large fruit box" filled with an assortment of papers and trade
cards. The box also contained a folder which the owner knew to be
an interesting document - 17 sheets of lined paper recording in
sepia ink the details of 108 royal clocks giving their maker,
number, description, location and remarks, as shown in our
The manuscript was titled Catalogue of her Majesty's Clocks in
Buckingham Palace, April 1854 CF. The CF stands for Charles
Frodsham who received the warrant to act as Superintendent and
Keeper of Her Majesty's Clocks at Buckingham Palace in Ordinary in
that same year and month. The following year he went on to become
Master of the Clockmaker's Company.
It seems most likely, therefore, that the manuscript was
Frodsham's own personal record of the royal clocks under his care
in his new post. An added bonus was the discovery of a selection of
Charles Frodsham Ltd watch papers and business cards covering the
period 1936-52. The unused state of the cards and papers suggests
that their owner was personally involved with Frodshams, although
whether they entered the larger ephemera collection with the
manuscript or separately is not clear.
While interesting in its own right as a royal record, the
manuscript catalogue has the added dimension of being a highly
respected mid-19th century clockmaker's opinion of the work
produced as royal commissions by his forebears. The firm of
Vulliamy, whom Frodsham succeeded as superintendent of the royal
clocks (and whose work is much admired and collected today), seems
to have come in for the warmest admiration. Frodsham only affords
six of the 108 clocks that he surveyed the accolade of first class
work and five of those are by Vulliamy which, interestingly,
Frodsham took over in the same year.
Bonhams decided to to offer the bulk of the ephemera collection in
a book auction but removed the manuscript and Frodsham papers and
offered them separately in their clock auction on December 15 with
an estimate of £500-700.
"It was a difficult thing to put a value on," said their clock
specialist James Stratton, although he had felt the collection
would have crossover appeal.
Potentially, there could have been a wide range of prospective
purchasers from those with general horological or royal memorabilia
interests to more specific candidates such as the Clockmakers
Company or Buckingham Palace. One other obvious candidate was the
firm of Charles Frodsham itself, which still exists. And it was
Frodsham's who acquired the lot on the day, bidding in the room
against the telephone to £1600 plus 19.5 per cent premium.
Talking after the sale, Richard Stenning of Frodshams said that
they did not know how the 150-year-old piece of ephemera became
separated from the company: "We were obviously delighted to find it
was still extant and that we were able to repatriate it to the
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