Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

One of the more unexpected results in that June 14-15 auction held by Keys (20% buyer’s premium) was provided by a lot offering two works by John Wyndham.

Auction records show a previous best of £280 for a 1953 first of The Kraken Wakes, and £200 for Jizzle, but here the price for the pair was £2700.

Both were in dust jackets and the latter, a lesser-known collection of short stories published in 1954, was signed and inscribed.

The most expensive lot in the collection was a three-decker, 1865 third edition of the Irish writer, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas, a Tale of Bartram-Haugh in original blind-stamped plum cloth, which made £4200.

Sold at £2600 was an 1863 copy of Le Fanu’s The House by the Church-Yard describing itself as a second edition, but bearing a bookseller’s note stating that it is in fact a second issue. It was in a blind-stamped and gilt lettered and decorated ‘remainder’ binding.

Yet another successful Le Fanu lot comprised Vols 71-72 of the Dublin University Magazine from the year 1868, in which is found the first appearance of Haunted Lives. It sold at £800.

Ghost tales

A 1904 first of MR James’ Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, in original buckram with yapp edges, sold at £750, and a 1919 first of A Thin Ghost and Others in dust jacket made £680.

The latter appears to have set an auction record, as did the £1050 bid that secured a limited-edition copy of The Wailing Well. One of 157 copies issued by the Mill House Press in 1928, it had a signed, autograph letter from James on Eton College notepaper tipped-in.

A mystery by Richard Marsh and some Edgar Wallace magazine contributions are noted in the accompanying illustrations, but one final selection has to be The Chest of Opium, which made a six-times estimate £360.

An 1986 first of tale of murder set in China, it purports to be the work of a ‘Mr M’, but is identified in the catalogue as that of Julian Croskey.

A quick online search reveals the fact that this writer’s 1894 book, The Shen’s Pigtail: and other Cues of China Life, has quite recently been reprinted.