An incomplete but exceptionally rare copy of one of the much-loved ‘Infant’s Cabinets’ published over 200 years ago was a highlight of a sale in which early children’s books and games were prominent performers.
The work from John Marshall, one of the best-known publishers in the children’s book field, was an example of The Infant’s Cabinet of Fruits, Roots, &c. of 1802.
Containing only 18 coloured cards illustrating fruit and vegetables within a boxwood container with sliding lid, it was temptingly valued at just £100-200, “with all faults”, but it sold instead at £3000.
Auction records show only one other example of any kind. That example – boasting what must have been a full complement of 28 cards – was sold for $26,000 (then a little over £15,000) as long ago as 1990 by Swann in New York.
Sold for £2000 in this Exeter sale was An Historical Game of the Romans, a board game published in 1805 by Didier & Tebbett. Again contained in a wooden box with a sliding lid that bears a pictorial label, it offered an instruction book in original wrappers, a folding and hand-coloured map and a coloured chronological table, plus assorted counters.
An educational alphabet game that sold for £550, The Prince of Wales’s ABC, had 26 coloured and one general counter within a circular boxwood container with fitted lid and litho printed title.
A record £550 was also bid for a signed presentation copy of The Grandeur of the Gorges, a 1926 Shanghai publication containing 50 photographic studies of China’s Yangtze river on tipped-in plates, a dozen of them hand coloured.
One of an edition of 100 copies, it was in the original, if now rather worn brocade covers.
The Exeter sale also offered a collection of books of Cornish interest formed by the late Harold Bowden.
Most of the usual ‘high points’ were included, said the saleroom – among them a 1602 first of Richard Carew’s Survey of Cornwall, the earliest individually published history of the county, which made £800.
An “excellent” copy of Philip Rashleigh’s Specimens of British Minerals…, the two parts of 1797-1802 bound as one in contemporary half morocco gilt and containing 53 hand coloured plates of minerals, sold at a high estimate £5000. That equalled a record set for another fine copy offered by Dominic Winter in 2014.
Before that South Cerney sale, most of the higher-priced copies seem to have come to auction in the 1990s.
Sold for £1050 in the Devon sale was an eight-page letter, dated May 8, 1772, and written in the third person, in which William Borlase, the Cornish naturalist, antiquary, geologist and rector of Ludgvan, provides William Huddesford, then Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, with an account of his life. Borlase died only three months later.