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First Edition

Book collectors seek out first editions as they represent the original form in which a book was originally published.

Signed and inscribed copies are even more desirable, and the ‘dedication copy’ – the copy which is inscribed to the person to whom the author dedicated the book – is more sought after still.


Virgil translated

29 September 2004

FIRST edition copies of John Martyn’s translations of Virgil’s Georgicks (1741) and Bucolicks (1749), both illustrated with coloured plates and maps and bound in contemporary calf, made £500 in a September 17 sale held by John Bellman of Billingshurst.

Quick witted

16 September 2004

IN rubbed contemporary sheep and with the fore-edges close cropped in some places, but generally in sound condition, a 1542 first edition of the scholar and dramatist Nicholas Udall’s translation of Erasmus’ compilation of ‘Apophthegmata’, as Apophthegmes, that is to saie, prompte, quicke, witty sayings, sold for £850 (Powell) in an Y Gelli sale of July 23.

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Mary Norton’s Borrowers ... Afield, Afloat, Aloft and Avenged

16 September 2004

ILLUSTRATED right is a collection of eight Mary Norton first editions in dust wrappers, including copies of her first two children’s books, The Magic Bedknob (1945) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947), and, of course, a set of the Borrowers titles that made her famous.

Poor Laws

09 September 2004

IN a Lawrences of Crewkerne sale of July 6, a 1678 first (in full panelled calf) of Some Proposals for the imploying of the Poor. Especially in and about the City of London. And for the Prevention of Begging, the only known publication of the philanthropist Thomas Firmin, was sold at £1100.

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Graves and the man who kept him from one...

19 August 2004

LIKE other ex-Peralta-Ramos lots that have cropped up in recent weeks, this pair of 1934 firsts of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius and Claudius the God bore a red inked Chinese ownership stamp, but both were inscribed by the author in 1958, at a time when he was giving a lecture in Detroit, and they sold for $5500 (£2990) in a Sotheby’s New York sale of June 17.

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Holmes past and future...

10 August 2004

THE sale at $350,000 (£190,215) of Conan Doyle’s autograph manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, has already been noted in the Antiques Trade Gazette (No.1646) but the Christie’s New York sale of June 9 that brought that very high bid also included the pair of first edition copies of The Adventures... and Memorials of Sherlock Holmes (1892 and ’94) seen right.

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Behind the wardrobe...

21 July 2004

THE very fine 1950 first edition copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe seen right, with just a few nicks to the jacket skilfully repaired, was sold for £6000 to a collector by Bloomsbury Auctions on June 17, but at Sotheby’s on July 8, a complete set of the seven books that make up C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia was left unsold on an estimate of £5000-7000.

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Poetic blooms by Stevenson

21 July 2004

ILLUSTRATED right is a very good copy of the 1885 first edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s splendid A Child’s Garden of Verses that made £1200 (Bauman Rare Books) as part of the Alan Fortunoff library at Bloomsbury Auctions on June 4.

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Rabbit fortunes...

21 July 2004

ONE yellow-covered rabbit book in the Dominic Winter sale of June 24, a scarce 1922 first of Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real, with its William Nicholson illustrations, was left unsold on an estimate of £4000-5000 (the original pictorial boards had been “rebacked in facsimile”) but the 1972 first of Richard Adams’ Watership Down, seen right – a copy used in the V&A’s 1977 ‘After Alice’ exhibition – made £610 in Swindon.

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Winnie the Pooh & Tigger too

21 July 2004

THERE is never any shortage of news from the Hundred Acre Wood and this summer’s helpings included, at the very basic level, the straightforward 1926 first of Winnie the Pooh seen top right, a little rubbed and darkened to the spine, which brought a bid of £1350 (Sotherans) at a Dominic Winter sale of June 24.

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20,000 Leagues in English equals £12,000

21 July 2004

FIRST English editions of the works of Jules Verne have been selling for high prices of late. In a July 6 sale held by Strides of Chichester, the fine copy of Sampson Low’s 10/6d edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, seen right, dated 1873 but possibly issued as early as October of the previous year, sold for £12,000.

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Beatrix Pottering

21 July 2004

PICK of the recent Beatrix Potters were seen in the Dominic Winter sale of June 24, where the 1903 first of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, seen right, complete with printed glassine jacket (showing some spine and edge loss) and inscribed as a Christmas gift at the time by the author to a Mrs Lord, was sold at £7600 to Hawthorn Books, who gave a further £7600 for a jacketed, 1904 first of The Tale of Benjamin Bunny that Beatrix Potter inscribed to Mrs Lord.

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The Cat, the Grinch & Horton

21 July 2004

A Christie’s New York sale of June 9 included a collection of Dr Seuss books, illustrated letters and other ephemera formed by Jed Mattes, who in 1977, following the death of Theodor Geisel’s long-term agent Phyllis Jackson, took over as his representative.

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Tolkien and his US copyright

21 July 2004

THERE was a 1954-55 first edition set of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books in a Sotheby’s sale of July 8 that sold at £6500 to a collector – all three volumes impressions in slightly frayed jackets, one of them with a tape repair, showing a little browning and spotting.

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Frankenstein and the fireproof book

22 June 2004

A TYPED first draft of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in which he uses real names of characters and places, not the pseudonyms of the finished book, carried a $100,000-150,000 estimate in a May 27 modern literature sale held in San Francisco by PBA Galleries but it joined a long list of unsold lots.

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Heath Robinson’s asbestos fun

16 June 2004

IN a May 18 sale held by Tennants of Leyburn, a copy of the 1902, first trade edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, bearing a neat inscription that was added 90 years later, was lotted with a copy of Jack and the Beanstalk in English hexameters by Hallam Tennyson and illustrated by Randolph Caldecott [1886?] and sold for £1000.

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Swedish history bound for a French king

16 June 2004

A VERITABLE feast awaits lovers of early bindings at Christie’s on July 7, when they present the first part of the Michel Wittock collection, a 118-lot sale of Renaissance bindings, but seen right is something rather special from their sale of June 2.

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Emma the leading lady and still a bestseller...

10 June 2004

EMMA was the leading lady in a May 19 sale held by Dreweatt Neate of Newbury, an 1816 first of Jane Austen’s novel selling at £6000. Catalogued as bound in both contemporary half red morocco and later boards, it retained the half title to Vol. III only and showed a little spotting and staining. It also bore the booklabels of Gilbert Bethune of Balfour.

On the origin of a couple of Austens

10 June 2004

BOUND in half calf gilt and marbled boards, the three-vol., 1813 second edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that sold for £4600 in a May 21 sale held by John Bellman of Billingshurst bore the pencil initials H.D. for Horace Darwin (Charles Darwin’s son) and his bookplates were to be found in a copy of the 1818, four-vol. first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in a similar but less well-preserved binding that sold at £2500.

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Postcard offers brief new note on Chamber Music

10 June 2004

A POSTCARD sent by Joyce to the publisher Elkin Mathews sold for €12,000 (£8170) in a May 18 sale held by Mealy’s in Dublin.