Fiske began collecting over 50 years ago with the purchase of a copy of Froissart’s Chronicles from Yarmouth dealer, David Ferrow, but a lifelong passion and involvement with local history, heraldry and other subjects saw the collection grow to something like 30,000 books and pamphlets, together with manuscripts and armorial rolls, a substantial collection of autographs and much more.
Fiske’s many volumes of manuscript indexes to the collection guided academics and other researchers to its holdings and proved especially valuable in the 1990s, following the terrible fire at Norwich Central Library that saw the loss of so many rare works.
Of special interest is a group of over 100 extra-illustrated volumes. A 1702-04 first of Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars... is estimated at £20,000-£25,000 and Lady Grace Elizabeth Neale’s handsome eight volume set of William Seward’s Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons of 1798 that includes work by heraldic artist Thomas Dowse, at £10,000-12,000.
One of the many lots of which Fiske is particularly proud is his copy of Hasty Productions by George Walpole, Earl of Orford: “I have only come across one copy each of the first and second edition of this scandalous book. I missed a 1781 first... [now in the British Library] but did manage to purchase the second Norwich edition of 1791.
“While it would not shock present day readers, this work of erotic fiction was unacceptable when it was printed and its rarity is explained on the endpaper of the book by a previous owner, the Hon. Frederick Walpole.
“Walter Rye, writing in 1920, said 25 copies were printed but most copies were destroyed at his [Walpole’s] death and as Rye said ‘a good thing too’.”
It is valued at £8000-10,000.