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Several of those lots produced bids well in excess of estimate, almost from the very start of proceedings, when The Censure of the ROTA upon Mr Miltons Book, entituled the Ready and Easy way to establish a Free Commonwealth, a 16pp pamphlet of 1660 estimated at £50-80, sold for £610.

This was one of many publications that were prompted by the appearance in 1656 of James Harrington’s Commonwealth of Oceana, a work of political philosophy that had initially been banned by Cromwell.

During the confusion which followed Cromwell’s death, says Harrington’s Dictionary of National Biography entry, Harrington formed a club called the ROTA to discuss the introduction of his political schemes, and The Censure…, it seems, is a “clever burlesque by some Royalist [in which]… Milton and the Rota-men are turned into ridicule together”.

Only moments later at the sale an undated set of 24 engraved and hand-coloured cards titled Feronica’s Hierogryphical Riddles sold for a much higher than expected £1300, establishing an oft repeated pattern.

A heraldic manuscript of c.1653 relating to the Harrington family made £1400; a finely bound manuscript catalogue of the library of the Reverend Richard Harrington as it was in 1835 sold at £700, and an undated auction catalogue, issued by a Mr Squib, that detailed the contents of a Harrington house in Berkeley Square, made £450.

Manuscript ledgers, job lots of pamphlets and ephemera and many other lots with a Harrington family provenance were spread throughout the catalogue.

Among the more recent and expensive was an archive of diaries, letters, illustrations and photographs relating to the work in the fields of ethnography and anthropology of William Scoresby Routledge (1859-39) and his wife, Katherine. Estimated at £300-500, the archive sold at £7000.

Dahl record-breakers

From another property, however, came eight inscribed copies of Roald Dahl books (in seven lots) that all brought record bids.

First up was an 1982 first of Revolting Rhymes which, signed and inscribed “To Jan & Colin with love”, sold at £1100. It was followed by a 1986, first US edition of Dahl’s autobiographical account of his early career and adventures in the RAF and elsewhere, Going Solo, inscribed “To Jan”, that made £700.

The most successful of these Dahl lots, however, was a 1983 first of The Witches, again signed and inscribed for Jan and Colin by Roald, but also signed by his second wife, Felicity. She crossed out the first word of the printed dedication “For Liccy” and inscribed it instead “Love from Liccy”. It sold at £2500.

Other lots from the mixed-owner sections of the sale included the one that carried the highest pre-sale estimate, an example of John Pine’s 1733, first printed facsimile of Magna Carta that was illustrated in the preview pages of ATG No 2283.

That one did not sell, but a coloured example of Braun & Hogenburg’s celebrated bird’s-eye view of London, dating to 1574 or later, made £4200.