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Among the medical lots, a volume containing two papers extracted from The Lancet – papers described in Garrison & Morton’s medical bibliography as “two of the most epoch-making contributions to surgery”– brought a bid of £2000 from Pickering & Chatto. The work of Joseph Lister, these were On a New Method of Treating Compound Fracture, Abscess, Etc. With Observations on the Conditions of Suppuration and On the Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery, Lister’s key works on the prevention of wound infection.

The Haskell F. Norman copies of the first journal issues of these papers, sold for $2600 (£1560) at Christie’s New York in 1998, were accompanied by some other copies of The Lancet for 1867 in which Lister replied to unfounded accusations by Sir James Simpson that he had plagiarised the work of other European surgeons and the chemist Jules Lemaire, and this Bloomsbury sale contained an 1847 Lancet reprint of Simpson’s own account of a New Anaesthetic Agent, more Efficient than Sulphuric Ether, a paper published first published earlier that year in Edinburgh in 1847, which sold at £900 to Pickering & Chatto.

Again, I refer to Garrison & Morton for the explanation of its significance. “In an attempt to find an anaesthetic less irritating than ether, Simpson discovered the advantages of chloroform. He had previously used ether with great benefit in midwifery, but now substituted chloroform, being the first to do so”.

In the Norman sales, a presentation second edition of that Edinburgh version – published only days after the first – was sold at $17,000 (£10,200).

Sold for £3500 to Simon Finch was a disbound and inkstamped copy of Patent Specification No. 12,039, an illustrated application of 1897 in which Gugliemo Marconi described his Improvememts in Transmitting Electrical Impulses and Signals, and in Apparatus Therefor.

Marconi, who made his first successful experiments in Bologna before moving to London, was granted a patent based on the specification described in this document, and in the same month the Wireless Telegraph Company was formed after exhaustive tests by the General Post Office. Within three years, the first transatlantic radio communication had been made.

Again disbound, and this time bearing a Manchester Library stamp to the title page, was Patent Specification No. 718,895. Dated November 1954, but filed in 1951, this one, which incorporated two folding diagrams of electrical circuits, was called Improvements in or relating to Electronic Digital Computing Engines and was the work of Alan Turing, Donald Watts Davies and Michael Woodger. It sold at £1800 (Reif).

The general mix of books which made up the remainder of the sale included, among the travel books, an 1831 first, in original cloth backed boards, of Anthony Groves’ Journal... during a Journey from London to Baghdad, through Russia, Georgia and Persia, which sold for £900 (Brook-Hitching), and an 1899 first of Winston Churchill’s The River War, the two volumes in the original cloth, which reached £1900 (Goldstein).

Right: Bound as one in later limp vellum and lotted under a Dance of Death heading were three illustrated collections published in Zurich in 1657: Conrad Meyer’s Sterbenspiegel, das ist sonnenklare Vorstellung menschlicher Nichtigkeit durch alle deren Stände und Gesellichter, which contains 57 engravings in the text, plus music, together with Christen-Spiegel: das is Bedenckliche Erinnerungen über die Beruffsplichten aller Ständen, which offers 15 further engravings, and Sechs and Zwanzig nichtige Linderspiel, which as the title explains, presents 26 engravings.

The volume was sold at £2400 to Christian Haslinger.

Bloomsbury Book Auctions, London, December 14
Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent