With several major sales of books and ephemera coming up, including those at Bloomsbury and Forum Auctions, there are plenty of volumes to choose from. Here are a few of the stand-out books at five of those upcoming auctions.
First state copies of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit are highly collectable. The 1937 fantasy classic kicked off his epic Lord of the Rings series which has sparked numerous adaptations and editions. The first edition, first impression, published by George Allen & Unwin, features a cover designed by the author, showing Middle Earth and bordered by elvish runes.
A well-preserved first made £35,000 at Forum Auctions last summer. On March 28, Bloomsbury Auctions offers a similar volume in its Modern First Editions sale. The volume has its original map endpapers and pastedowns and is overall a fine and clean copy. It has an estimate of £25,000-35,000.
A collection of chess problems
Gioachino Greco (c.1590-c.1630), known as ‘The Calabrian’, was considered the first professional chess player. During his travels across Europe, the commercially minded Greco frequently compiled small-format manuscripts for presentation to wealthy patrons, generally written in Italian by copyists and decorated by local artists.
That is the case with this collection of partiti or chess problems, which is believed to have been produced in Paris c.1624-25. This is one of his earliest manuscripts, and is similar to those found in institutions including the British Library.
It has an estimate of £20,000-30,000 at Forum Auctions’ sale on March 28.
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
A partial collection of Edward Gibbon’s seminal work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire goes under the hammer at Lawrences of Crewkerne tomorrow with an estimate of £1000-1500.
Comprised of the first five (out of six) volumes, the first edition set was published in London by W Strahan and T Cadell from 1776-88. It includes a frontispiece portrait of Gibbon after Sir Joshua Reynolds and three engraved folding maps.
The book was a great literary achievement of its day tracing Western civilisation from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium. It remains a readable introduction to the period, though subsequent studies of that time period mean that some of the ideas it presents are now outdated.
Le Mort D’Arthur
Adam’s offers this copy of Sir Thomas Malory’s The Birth Life and Acts of King Arthur of his Noble Knights of the Round Table – better known as Le Morte D’Arthur – in its auction of March 12. Known as the Cahirmoyle Copy, this first edition was published by Dent 1893 in two volumes with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. It formerly belonged to the Irish painter Dermod O’Brien (1865-1945) and has his signature in both volumes, and was later in the collection of Hugh and Anne Iremonger. It has an estimate of €1000-1500 at the auction in Dublin.
An early cookbook
A scarce handbook, apparently produced for students at the earliest known cooking school in England, is offered at the South Africa based AntiquarianAuctions.com in a sale running from March 7-14. It has an estimate of $2000-3000 (USD).
The early cookery school was run by Edward Kidder (d. 1739) in various London locations during the 1720s-30s. This work "is a valuable record of 170 standard English dishes of the day, accompanied by attractive designs for pie shapes and decorations. The first recipe for puff pastry (identical to the standard commercial product of today) to appear in print is Kidder's", according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.