Part of a Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) sale on June 20-21, this was a previously unrecorded example from the original edition of 150 copies that its author, having failed to get the support of six different publishers, arranged to have printed at her own expense.
Some were given away, others sold at 1/6d – and so successfully that Potter had to order a slightly modified second impression run of 200 copies. It was then that Frederick Warne made one of the wiser decisions of his or any other publisher’s career in deciding to take on the stream of much-loved children’s books that followed.
Condition was less impressive where this copy was concerned. Rubbed at the spine, showing some old stains from adhesive repairs, and with joints mostly split, it also showed some soiling, partially broken stitching, etc, but that signature proved a real bonus. It sold for £20,000.
In 2004, when exchange rates were in a very different place, US dealer and collector Justin Schiller’s fine copy of …Peter Rabbit made $80,000 (then £40,800) at Christie’s New York, while 10 years earlier a copy that Potter had inscribed for a family servant, Zipporah Robinson, had sold at Sotheby’s for £55,000.
Both idle and diligent
Earlier juvenile works in the Dominic Winter sale included a 1797 first of The History of Jacky Idle, and Dicky Diligent.
This rare Newbery work illustrated with a frontispiece and a dozen other wood-engraved images is from the familiar genre of works aimed at improving the behaviour of children.
To that end it highlights “…the different Consequences arising from Indolent Inattention and Laudable Perseverance”. In original but time-worn, slightly creased and torn Dutch floral wrappers, and bearing a contemporary inscription, “Thomas Isaac his Book…”, it sold at £2800.
Also sold for a much higher than predicted sum, and a record at £4000, was an 1848, first English language edition of Dr Heinrich Hoffmann’s …Struwwelpeter. This famous work was first published in 1847 by Friedrich Volmaer of Leipzig, who was quick to bring out editions in other languages. The first English edition is scarce – especially so in the original boards, as was the case here.
William the sixth and ninth
Two very different children’s books of the 1920s, both of which would appear to have made record auction prices, came from the pen of Richmal Crompton, who produced some 40 or so of her ‘Just William’ books over a period of almost 50 years.
Here the sixth and ninth titles in that long series, William – the Conqueror of 1926 and William – the Good of 1928, both in their dust jackets, sold at £600 and £1050 respectively.
A 1953 first of The Silver Chair, the fourth of seven books that make up the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series by CS Lewis, sold at £3400 – a sum only £100 or so short of a record.