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Items on offer also featured a Sibelius letter to Ralph Vaughan Williams and even classical LPs.

Pick of the 50 or so Elgar lots from the collection of Peter and Anne Duckers in a January 31 sale held by Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) was a 7pp autograph “clean copy” of O Hearken Thou for chorus and orchestra that made £6000.

It was written for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary and first performed in Westminster Abbey in June 1911.

The composer usually hung on to his own manuscripts, but he did not attend the coronation, having, it is suggested, taken offence at some perceived slight in the seating arrangements. Much to her disappointment, he also refused his wife permission to attend.

See also the signed portrait of Elgar from the Duckers property, illustrated above .

From another source came a boldly signed typed letter sent by Jean Sibelius in 1952 to Ralph Vaughan Williams. In an 80th birthday greeting the Finnish composer expresses his admiration for Elgar’s compositions, especially those of a patriotic nature. Later donated by the composer’s wife, Ursula, to a charity fundraising event, it made £2400 on its reappearance at auction.

Flora in the States

Other notable successes in the 565-lot Gloucestershire sale included a copy of Constantine Rafinesque’s New Flora of North America, at £3200.

Bound in period half morocco but preserving the printed yellow wrappers of the four original parts, this unillustrated but pioneering work resulted from the author’s extensive botanical travels in the eastern regions of the US. The saleroom could find no record of previous auction appearances.

Geology has become something of a speciality of Dominic Winter and the January auction included an 1839, second edition of George Greenough’s Geological Map of England and Wales at £5800 and a presentation first of William Buckland’s Vindiciae Geologica, or the Connexion of Geology with Religion Explained… at £2200.

The latter is the text of a lecture delivered at Oxford in May 1819, on the occasion of the endowment of a Readership in Geology, an event attended by the Prince Regent.

Inscribed by Buckland, the author and first holder of that title, for William J Broderip, later secretary of the Geological Society, the lecture was bound up with an extract from an 1819 volume of the ‘Memoirs’ of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St Petersburg. This was an illustrated paper On the Mammoth or Fossil Elephant… [found] in Siberia, by WG Tilesius von Tilenau.

Adams collection

One of the last South Cerney sales of the old year, on December 14, offered books from the library of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down and an enthusiastic book collector.

The extent of his collecting remained largely unknown to his family, according to his daughter, Juliet Johnson, whose biographical and literary tribute was printed in the catalogue – but it was certainly known to London dealership Sotherans, from whom almost all of his purchases were made.

There were one or two disappointments, among them a 1638 first of Milton’s Lycidas valued at £50,000-70,000, but noted below are a few of the high spots.

A complete set of Jane Austen firsts, uniformly bound in tan calf gilt by Rivière in the 19th century, realised £66,000.

Three firsts in original boards (but housed in special folders and slipcases) of works by John Clare saw The Shepherd’s Calendar of 1827 sell at £6700; Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery of 1820 at £2900, and The Village Minstrel and other Poems, two volumes of 1821, at £2000.

All three set record prices for straightforward firsts, though a copy of The Village Minstrel… inscribed for Clare’s patron, Lord Milton, made £3200 at Sotheby’s in 2006.

An 1896 first of AE Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad, untrimmed in original vellum backed boards, realised £3400.

A 1954 first of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies made £8000. The jacket showed some loss to the spine ends, but it was inscribed for Adams by the author.

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Richard Adams bookplate – £1500.

Illustrated above is an example of Adams’ bookplate – featuring a rabbit, what else? – that in this instance was to be found in a 1959 first of Cider with Rosie.

It was in a poor, torn and tape repaired jacket but was inscribed “…for Richard Adams, spell binder extraordinary, with best wishes from Laurie Lee” and it sold at a record £1500.