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It was her eighth birthday and her father coloured the five woodcuts attributed to J Thompson after Stothard in his own hand and added a drawing on the half title page.

Six months later, when Constable's great friend and eventual biographer Charles Leslie was about to sail with his family to the US, Constable repeated the gesture.

He bought his god-daughter Harriet Jane Leslie a second version of Dr Watts's children's classic and again coloured the woodcut illustrations. This time, he added eight watercolour sketches on various pages including a bird singing from a nest and a bee settling on a rose and wrote a dedication to the title page.

It read Harriet Jane Leslie, from her affectionate godfather, John Constable, Sept 13th 1833. Below he penned the first verse of one of the hymns inside.


Emily Constable's book was gifted to the V&A by Isabel Constable in 1888 but Harriet Jane Leslie's book remained in the family of her nephew Charles Robert Leslie Fletcher (1857-1934). Although very accurately described in various historical documents and recorded by Graham Reynolds in The Later Drawings and Paintings of John Constable, it has never been publicly exhibited and its precise whereabouts was unknown.

That copy of Songs, Divine and Moral now carries an estimate of £20,000-40,000 at  McTear's British and International Pictures Auction in Glasgow on October 2.

It comes directly from the Fletcher family.

Commenting on the sale of an item with "a cast-iron provenance", McTear's managing director Brian Clements said: "This is a quite remarkable book. Not only are the watercolour sketches beautifully executed but the condition is excellent. The colours are as fresh and vibrant as they were when Constable painted them over 180 years ago.

"It's never easy to place a valuation on something which is unique and the estimate may well prove to be a little on the low side."