Hardy’s Return of the Native, that on December 3 made $35,000 (£18,420) at Sotheby’s New York.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The book made Elyot's reputation and was doubtless a contributory factor to his elevation to the diplomatic service and an appointment as ambassador to the court of Charles V. The book went into eight editions over the following 50 years, but all early editions are now scarce - the earliest I could find at auction in the last 20 years being one of 1544.

A fine copy of Berthelet's fifth edition of 1553 was to be found in a November 16 sale at Christie's South Kensington. In a contemporary English calf binding, panelled in blind with a central gilt fleuron, it contains some early ownership inscriptions - one John Dolphin adding his in four languages in 1559-60 - and a loose wrapper around the binding bears a note that reads: "I have seen this book marked at 1.11.6 this year 1813". This year it sold for £4000.

Earlier in the proceedings, the auctioneers had taken a bid of £2400 on another well-known work by Elyot, The Castell of Health - "a popular sensible treatise on healthful living, with sound and practical advice on the recognition of the commoner symptoms of disease, and what to do about them". First published in 1534, or at least that is the date that appears on a woodcut architectural border to the title, it was reissued in corrected form in 1541 with a preface replacing the author's original dedication to Thomas Cromwell. The South Kensington copy, in modern vellum, was a posthumously published edition of 1560.