With preparations getting underway for the Nelson tricentenary celebrations in 2005, autograph collector and postal historian Gavin Littaur felt the time was right to sell an autograph letter, signed ‘Nelson & Bronte’, sent to William Churchey thanking him for his good wishes for the continuance of the peace.
“I believe we can never really own an object, we are merely custodians,” explained Mr Littaur, who had bought the letter at a UK provincial auction.
He continued: “I’m not a Nelson specialist and I felt it was only right to let a Nelson specialist enjoy such a wonderful letter”. Mr Littaur also felt that from a postal history point of view, the letter was not fully displayable due to the removal of the franking signature to the address.
Nelson letters are not rare finds at auction, but what made this one special were the Admiral’s candid and relaxed remarks about his adversary Napoleon: “...but I doubt ever Buonapartes laying down the Sword he rules France with it...”.
The letter was offered in Bonhams (19.5% buyer’s premium) June 24-25 Printed Books, Maps and Manuscripts sale at their New Bond Street rooms and specialist Felix Pryor felt confident that Nelson’s “appealing and memorable” comments would override any condition worries potential buyers might have had.
When the letter was framed back in the early part of the 20th century, it had been slightly trimmed, there was also some slight fading and time-staining and, of course, there was the lack of the aforementioned franking signature.
Estimated at £4000-6000, the letter attracted interest from collectors both inside and outside the UK, selling to an overseas buyer at £9200.