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Bibliophile boycott

A mass boycott of Amazon-owned AbeBooks began this month.

Together more than 580 book dealers across 27 countries temporarily withdrew nearly 3.8m books from the site in protest at Abe’s decision to pull out of the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) had already scrapped its sponsorship deal with the online book portal for its flagship summer fair on the grounds that it was “not a suitable sponsor for us at this time.”

The result? A summit meeting between Abe and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, an apology for the upset caused and a U-turn that will reinstate the affected booksellers.

Vetting pains

Consternation also surrounded a new ‘global vetting policy’ at TEFAF fairs in Maastricht and New York. Following a review of the legal issues relating to vetting, dealers and auction house specialists have been removed from all TEFAF vetting panels. They will now comprise only academics, curators, conservators, conservation scientists and independent scholars.

The review was held “to ensure TEFAF remains the most trusted sales platform within the international marketplace”, but the new policy was not without its detractors. Dealer associations queued up to defend the use of dealers whose knowledge of the market is second to none, while a roster of a senior trade figures did not mince their words.

Asian art

November’s annual Asian Art in London festival was notable for both the return of stand-alone Japanese art sales at Sotheby’s (the catalogue, the first for a decade, included a new record for Meiji art) and for the discussion regarding the dating of a ‘Yuan dynasty’ blue and white porcelain flask. Debate surrounding the age of Chinese ceramics is common but the item concerned, from Danish auctioneer Bruun Rasmussen, had earlier in the week been awarded a ‘best object’ prize. Ultimately good practice prevailed: the item was withdrawn from sale, the award returned, and a decision taken to devise a new award for next year.

Price change

Auction portal changed its online commission to 4.95% (exc VAT) and launched a bidder reward scheme for the most active buyers.

Buyers big and small

Auctioneer Fellows celebrated both its biggest jewellery auction of the year – with the hammer total hitting £1m – and its most successful handbag sale of 2018 when its designer collection auction took more than £165,000.

Providing some lighter relief was a ‘viral’ tweet from Broadhursts Bookshop. Shopowner Laurie Hardman’s throwaway comment “I have just sold a book [a children’s biography of William the Conqueror] that we have had in stock since May 1991. We always knew its day would come,” was retweeted more than 15,600 times, receiving 144,000 likes (and counting).

It was difficult too not to be charmed by the heart-warming tale of the man who – after an online search for family history – uncovered his father’s long-lost First World War presentation pocket watch coming up at auction.

After a successful bid at the C&T auction in Kent, Alan Wardle is now the proud owner of the watch belonging to 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Wardle, 2nd/6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry.


The watch belonging to 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Wardle, 2nd/6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry that was bought by his son at C&T in Kent.

Quote of the month

Buyers pay more for things in a country house setting. They want a part of that life

Adrian Rathbone of Hansons following an auction held on site at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire

Key sales


Communist-era famille rose dish – £28,000 at Sworders’ Asian Art sale in Stansted Mountfitchet.

This 11in (27cm) Communist-era famille rose dish led Sworders’ Asian Art sale in Stansted Mountfitchet on November 6.

Decorated with a scene of girls dutifully repairing fishing nets, it includes an inscription praising communal effort and is signed by the artist Tu Juqing and dated 1960 – the time of the controversial Great Leap Forward. The unexpected winning bid was £28,000 (plus 23% buyer’s premium).


Buckingham Palace public notice announcing the Armistice – £21,000 at Henry Aldridge.

This original Buckingham Palace public notice announcing the Armistice sold for £21,000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium) at Wiltshire auction house Henry Aldridge.

Typed on embossed Palace card dated November 11, 1918, it reads: The Armistice with Germany was signed at 5am this morning. Hostilities will cease upon the whole front at 11am today.


‘The Northern Girl’ by Yang Fei Yun – £1.7m at Woolley & Wallis.

Woolley & Wallis celebrated its 10th £1m-plus lot on November 13, selling a portrait by Chinese contemporary artist Yang Fei Yun (b.1954) for £1.7m (plus 25/12% premium).

The Northern Girl, signed and dated September 1987, Yang Fei Yun hua Peng Peng, was bought at the Hefner Galleries in New York c.1990 by Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick (1942-2007). The sitter – the artist’s wife pictured in the early days of their marriage – was in Salisbury to watch picture bring the second-highest ever price for the artist.


Silver-gilt trinkspiel with marks for the celebrated Augsburg workshop of Hans Maulbrunner c.1614-16 – €175,000 (£159,000) at Sotheby’s Paris.

This silver-gilt trinkspiel with marks for the celebrated Augsburg workshop of Hans Maulbrunner c.1614-16 is the earliest known of its type. As highlighted in a short video released by Sotheby’s Paris on YouTube before the sale, it plays a trick on guests by appearing to turn water into wine.

It sold toward the top end of its estimate at €175,000/£159,000 (plus 25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) at the November 13 multi-discipline sale titled Excellence.


‘The Angel of Death’ by Evelyn De Morgan – £39,000 at Dominic Winter.

The Angel of Death, a 17 x 14in (44 x 36cm) gold pastel and black chalk on dark wove paper study by Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919), was knocked down at £39,000 (plus 19.5% buyer’s premium) at South Cerney saleroom Dominic Winter on November 8.

It was part of a 16-lot collection of drawings and sketches by the artist consigned to the saleroom by a descendant of MDE Clayton- Stamm, a collector of Pre-Raphaelite art and its followers in the 1950s-70s and co-author of a book on Evelyn’s husband, ceramic designer William De Morgan.