The surprise lot in a March 7 auction held by Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium), part of a wide-ranging sales week in South Cerney, was an exceptionally rare but incomplete 1796 edition of mapmaker Robert Morden’s A Brief Description of England and Wales.
A little pocket guide for travellers, schoolchildren and others, it contained 31 of 52 ‘playing card’ county maps, most of which were printed in strips and bound in concertina style. Estimated at £3000-5000, it was contested by two collectors to £34,000.
Great prices in New York
By 1939, when he inscribed a 1925 first of The Great Gatsby for the banker Tatnall Brown, F Scott Fitzgerald’s literary reputation and fortunes had declined.
An attempt to become a screen-writer in Hollywood had failed and inscribing this copy of his most famous work to Brown he wrote: “… from one who is flattered at being remembered”. He died the following year.
In a March 7 sale held in New York by Heritage Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) it sold for $130,000 (£93,525).
In a March 8 sale held in New York by Swann (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) a 1595, unauthorised first edition of Sir Philip Sidney’s The Defence of Poesie, estimated at $6000-9000, sold for $120,000 (£86,330).
At a select, 33-lot sale held by Bonhams New York (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on March 9, only 13 of the often highly estimated lots found buyers. However there was a winning $220,000 (£158,275) bid on an eight-page autograph manuscript in which Isaac Newton gives detailed instructions on creating the elusive philosopher’s stone.
A ‘Newtonian’ glass prism that Benjamin Franklin gave to Joseph Pope, designer of the famed orrery at Harvard, sold at $48,000 (£34,530). But the day’s high bid was $420,000 (£302,160) on a violin made for Albert Einstein after his arrival in America in the 1930s.
Produced by Oscar Steger, a cabinetmaker and sometime member of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, it was later given by Einstein to the son of a Princeton janitor-cum-handyman, in whose family it had remained until this year.
More from these sales in forthcoming issues.