BOOKS, manuscripts and photographs from The Old Rectory, at Banningham in Norfolk, provided a separately catalogued section of a three-day March 21-23 contents sale conducted by Bonhams and represented 70 years of collecting by the owner, picture restorer Bryan Hall, and his father, the Rev. William Hall, who was at one time Vicar of Barton Turf and Smallburgh.
The core of the collection had been formed in the 1940s and 50s and the large numbers of old bibles and theological texts reflected the calling of the elder Hall. To these were added additional local topography, history and genealogy, and a wide range of other material assembled by Bryan Hall, a man who always delighted in country house sales and other auctions and, anticipating his own house sale, even purchased a neighbouring field in which to site the marquees.
Some of the highlights are featured in accompanying caption stories and a few more are briefly noted below, but mention should also be made of the many job lots that kept dealers interested and amused and which regularly saw prices way in excess of what in some instances must have been purely notional estimates, even allowing for the fact that condition was not always what one might have hoped.
One such lot, catalogued, like so many others, as just “a large quantity of miscellaneous books” and carrying an estimate of £200-400, sold for £3400, while another, similarly estimated lot that was more fully described as “a quantity of miscellaneous folios including Bibles, theology, continental books etc. (dampstained)” was bid to £6800!
Reporting on the sale in a recent issue of Bookdealer, Piers Besley wrote: “Almost every lot contained several signed or association copies of £50-£100 books, and that is not to mention the early prayer book with fore-edge painting which was carefully re-concealed by each viewing bookseller hoping he had been the only discoverer”. But someone, it seems, was not content with mere hopeful concealment.
A miscellaneous lot acquired by David Lachman for £600 was later found to be lacking a 1564 [first?] edition of Certain most godly, fruitful and comfortable letters of such true saintes and holy martyrs as in the late bloodye persecution gave their lives, a latye work compiled by Miles Coverdale. This volume, which seems to have vanished during or after the viewing, was in a worn old calf binding and is readily identifiable by the presence of a large, 50p-sized burn hole towards the rear of the text.
On then to an assortment of other high spots.
A 1630, “fourth time published” copy of Michael Dalton’s The Countrey Justice..., slightly dampstained in worn, rebacked reversed calf of the period and bearing the ownership inscription of Hamon Le Strange (1591-94) as well as his comprehensive notes on inserted leaves and in the margins, sold at £2300.
Among the many, many Bibles, a 1682 folio Bible printed in Oxford “at the Theater” for the publisher Moses Pitt, made £3100. Containing the elaborate calligraphic ownership inscriptions of the first owners, William and Anne Wakelin (1690), it was bound in contemporary red panelled morocco gilt with silver cornerpieces, catches and clasps.
Originally priced at sixpence, Food for the Mind: or a New Riddle Book... by John the Giant-Killer, a woodcut-illustrated title published by Carnan & Newbery in 1788 [first issued in the 1750s?], sold at £1700. In the original pictorial boards, the spine defective, it incorporated a publisher’s catalogue to the rear.
A copy of the 1842 sale catalogue issued for the sale of the contents of Horace Walpole’s ...Strawberry Hill, marked up with buyers’ names and bound in contemporary calf (now worn and cracked at the joints) with the printed list of purchasers and prices, was sold for £2200.
Other items of particular local appeal included a very fine example of Francis Blomefield’s Essay towards a Topographical History of ...Norfolk. A five vol. first of 1739-75 in contemporary reversed calf with morocco spine labels, this was the set that had been owned and annotated by the antiquary Anthony Norris of Barton Turf, whose extensive and important contributions to the work are singled out in the introduction. A copy of the 1929, limited edition Supplement completed a lot which was sold for £2100.
Valued at £60-80 but sold for £4800 was a group of genealogical papers prepared by Robert Ryelly for Sir Robert Rokewode of Staningfield in 1631, tracing the descent and arms (supplied in watercolour) of the Appletons of Waldingfield in Suffolk. This 20pp archive was held in a vellum bifolium from a psalter of c.1500.
Two sheets of woodcut proof impressions of playing cards by C. Hewson, comprising 12 complete cards and 27 fragments, sold at £1150. An accompanying letter from A.E. Popham of the BM to the Rev. Hall dates them to the early 17th century.