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In contemporary reversed calf, rebacked to preserve the original backstrip, this copy was a variant issue with the name of J. Windet omitted from the imprint and containing a note from the ‘overseer of the print’, presumably Fulke Greville, who set up the first printing from Sidney’s incompletely revised text and added the chapter headings. (Sidney’s sister, the Countess of Pembroke herself, was responsible for the new material added to the re-arranged text of subsequent editions).

One of just 16 copies of this variant located by Juel-Jensen, this copy, which contains a contemporary inscription reading “remember youe and do not miss, and think of him who gave you this – Westhofer”, as well as the ownership inscriptions of John Stodart of Jesus College, Oxford, and Henry Eyton, to whom Stodart gave the book, on the stained, torn and repaired title page (right), has a couple of leaves inserted from another copy and other defects, but it is a rare thing and sold for £18,000.

In June 1980, when Christie’s sold the second portion of the Arthur A. Houghton library, it was acquired at £7000 by John Fleming and, in that same marvellous sale, Quaritch were able to purchase, for just £20,000, a very important contemporary manuscript copy of Sidney’s “toyful book”.

Until William Ponsonby got hold of a manuscript and made Sidney and his verse an instant success with this 1590 edition, the author had been reluctant even to circulate the text in manuscript among his close friends, let alone have it printed for public consumption.

Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent