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An oblong folio of the 1780s, according to the catalogue, this was a work that had music “...composed by several eminent masters”, and my copy of E.W. White’s 1983 History of English Opera explains that the work was the brainchild of Thomas Arne, who took a libretto by the young Isaac Bickerstaff and then selected, arranged and scored music by 17 different composers, himself included, to produce “one of the most delightful pasticcio operas of the century”.

First performed in 1762, it remained one of the more popular comic operas throughout the 18th century, and in Australia it continued to be performed until the mid-19th century.

Thomas Arne’s best known opera, adapted from an earlier masque, is based on the life of King Alfred and ends with that well known festive ode, Rule Britannia.

Three other lots from the Newbury sale are featured in the accompanying caption stories, but among the natural history entries was a copy of Houghton’s British Fresh-Water Fishes of 1841, illustrated with 41 colour printed wood engravings by Fawcett after Lydon and here bound as one volume in contemporary calf backed boards, that made £520, and Anne Pratt’s Flowering Plants and Ferns of Great Britain of 1899-1900, a four vol. SPCK publication containing 209 chromolithos, brought a bid of £350.

A 1950 first edition of John Betjeman’s wonderful verse autobiography, Summoned by Bells, bound in green morocco by Sotherans, made £200.

Dreweatt Neate, Newbury, January 30
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent