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The two-day sale will take place in London this summer: books and manuscripts will be offered on June 13 with a separate evening session of furniture and works of art on the same day followed by paintings on June 14. The money raised will be used to maintain the fabric of the house, gardens and estate and secure the major part of the historic collections at Longleat, the Wiltshire house that has been the home of the Thynne family since the 16th century.

Discussing the sale last week, Christie’s chairman Lord Hindlip emphasised that selection had been sensitively undertaken to ensure the preservation of Longleat’s core collections by choosing pieces less closely connected with the family and house that had entered it relatively recently.

Most of the paintings and books and manuscripts in the sale have come from Norton Hall, Northamptonshire. They were assembled by the Botfields, a junior branch of the family and did not come to Longleat until 1941. Other items have come from their London house at Grosvenor Square.

He explained that the Thynne family never had industrial wealth in the 19th century and the income for Longleat, well known for its safari park, is provided by the estate.

Recent events such as Foot and Mouth and the terrorist attacks have taken their toll on Britain’s tourist industry but Lord Bath, who was at Christie’s last week to announce the sale, said that the decision had been taken over the long term and was not related to Foot and Mouth and tourism.

“We need to make provision for the collection. It is not a question of having to sell things off,” said the flamboyant aristocrat, attired in a characteristically colourful outfit of multi-coloured waistcoat and velvet beret.

The pictures to be offered major on Dutch Old Masters, including a pair of full-length paintings by Gerard Terborch estimated at £500,000-700,000 and Salomon van Ruysdael’s View of Alkmaarestimated at £400,000-600,000.

Books and manuscripts will include Raoul Le Fevre’s Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye of 1473, the first book printed in the English language, which is expected to make £300,000-400,000, and Durandus’ Rationale of 1459, the second oldest printed book ever offered by Christie’s.

Highlights of the porcelain will be four life-size models of a fox, two vultures, and a turkey whose estimates range from £100,000-150,000 to £400,000-600,000. They formed part of the series modelled by Johann Kandler in Meissen porcelain for Augustus the Strong’s Japanese Palace at Dresden in the 1730s and duplicated in the Longleat collections.