The frontispiece to John Worlidge’s Apiarium; or, a Discourse of Bees of 1676, sold at a record £2800 by Dominic Winter.

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Offered in 50 lots, this was a collection formed by the late David A Smith, QC (1938- 2015), author of the standard bibliographical reference, British Bee Books 1500-1976, and for 50 years Secretary of the International Bee Research Association.

Many of the books in his library were sold in job lots, and condition had not always been a high priority, but a number of those lots brought much higher than expected bids.

In most cases it was simple rarity that was the cause, but where the top lot was concerned it seems that two collectors were both trying to fill the same gap.

Estimated at £100-150, one lot offered a 1778, third edition of Thomas Wildman’s Treatise on the Management of Bees… (a 1768 edition of which had sold as the previous lot for £290); a 1779, second edition of Daniel Wildman’s Complete Guide for the Management of Bees…, and a 1783, second edition of Bryan J’Anson Bromwich’s The Experienced Bee-Keeper.

All other bidding stopped around £400 but the auctioneers think it was the last mentioned item, one that also offers instructions on making mead and other drinks with honey, that triggered a bidding battle between two collectors desperate to fill a particular gap in their libraries. It finally sold at £3400.

Other early works that kept the bidders busy included a 1608 edition of Thomas Hill’s Arte of Gardening that includes a treatise on bee-keeping, at £960; a 1623, third edition in modern calf of a much more famous and early apian study, Charles Butler’s The Feminine Monarchie…, at £1700, and a 1634 first in modern boards of John Levett’s The Ordering of Bees at £600.

Sold at a record £2800 was a very rare, 1676 first in a good 20th century calf binding of John Worlidge’s Apiarium; or, a Discourse of Bees, the engraved frontispiece to which is shown above.

Among 18th century works of note was a 1759 second edition in rebacked contemporary calf of a work that appears to have no previous auction history – Stephen White’s Collateral Bee-Boxes; or a New, Easy and Advantageous Method of Managing Bees… It sold at £960.

Beyond bees

Illustrated here are sample lots from the two Dominic Winter sales that flanked the main book auction.

From a Motoring Literature, Automobilia and Historic Bicycles sale of November 7 comes the copy of The Sports Car, a short-lived MG owners’ magazine of the 1930s. Lacking only the 55th and last issue and with the first 45 cloth bound as four volumes, this almost complete run made £1100.

The Aviation, Militaria & Transport sale of November 9 included the elaborately gilt tooled morocco dispatch case, which dates from the 1830s and, as it boldly proclaims, belonged to the Duke of Wellington.

Last sold at Bonhams in 2008, it made £10,000 on this return to the auction front.