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At Bonhams (New Bond Street) on November 9, a copy of that memorandum, accomplished by a clerk but signed Nelson & Brontë and headed “Victory Off Cadiz 9th October 1805”, that was sent to Captain Eliab Harvey of HMS Temeraire, the ship that was later to be immortalised in oils by Turner, sold for £36,000.

Nelson’s original draft, sent to Collingwood, his second-in-command, is now on display at the BL, but two other copies have appeared at auction in the past two decades. The copy sent to the Earl of Northesk on the Britannia made £50,000 at Sotheby’s in 1994 (as part of the Northesk sale) and at Christie’s in 1985, the copy in the Calvin Bullock collection, sent to Captain Morris of the Colossus, had sold for £7500 at Christie’s.

Other important items from the papers of the captain of the ‘Fighting Temeraire’ included a secret list of “Additional Rendezvous”, comprising a list of signal flags and rendezvous points for the fleet that was issued from the Victory before Nelson had joined the fleet and taken over command from Collingwood. Again signed Nelson & Brontë, and marked as having been examined by Captain Hardy, this document made £10,500, while a secret memorandum on “...Lights to be shown at Night in Sight of an Enemy” (pictured right) that was issued at the same time, reached £7500. Four lights, set horizontally and eight feet apart, were to be hoisted at the mizzen peak.

From another source, the papers of ‘Mail Coach’ Palmer and the Jervis family, came a letter written in 1797 that sold for £13,000 to Marine & Cannon Books.

Addressed to John Palmer, the projector of the mail coach system, Comptroller General of the Post Office, and sometime Mayor and MP for Bath, it was written in that city, where Nelson had gone to recuperate after the loss of his right arm, and shows Nelson struggling to master the art of writing with his left hand.

The letter refers to a meeting with his old mentor, Sir John Jervis, Earl St. Vincent, and Nelson assures his correspondent that Vincent will promote his son just as soon as he has served his time.

Sold at £3200 was the distinctive blue velvet close cap with peak and earflaps (supplied by Lock & Co.) that the ageing and infirm Earl St. Vincent wore in the House of Lords by special leave of the king. Unless otherwise stated, all lots mentioned above can be assumed to have gone to private buyers.

Buyers premium: 15/10 per cent