Conducted by Dreweatts (24% buyer’s premium), it did include three works by his wife Lady Isobel, and there were others in which her editorial hand was present, but the majority focused on the writings of Sir Richard – among them several real rarities.
The Guide-Book. A Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina was printed as a pamphlet for an 1865 exhibition held at the Royal Polytechnic Institution, one that included paintings based on original drawings made on his travels.
The pamphlet itself includes a woodcut portrait of Burton and a description of the life, death and burial of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as the main rites connected with hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ex-Camberwell Public Library, and bearing a couple of stamps to that effect, but in otherwise excellent condition internally in the original green printed covers, it is one of very few copies seen at auction in the last 20-30 years and sold at £10,000.
The record, however, was set way back in 1997, when a copy made £22,000 at Christie’s.
Billed as “one of the rarest Burton titles, written in blank verse [and] …published under a pseudonym”, one Frank Baker, DON, was another 1865 publication.
Stone Talk… being, Some of the Marvellous Savings of a Petral Portion of Fleet Street has been described as a bitter satire on the crimes that England has committed as a nation and one that openly reprimands its political hypocrisy.
Only 200 copies were printed, and when Lady Burton found out that the satire was her husband’s work she bought up and destroyed as many copies as she could find, for fear that he would get into trouble with the authorities. Bearing a contemporary ink inscription at the head of title reading “from a friend” and one of Burton’s own book labels, this rarity sold at £8500. Though a lowestimate figure, it was a record one all the same.
Swords into play
Sold at a much higher than suggested £3800 was an 1876 first of A New System of Sword Exercise. Bearing the author’s ‘Captain Sir Richard F Burton’ book label to a front free endpaper, it was partially unopened, but the upper hinge was split and a few gatherings were becoming loose in the original red cloth binding.
However, only 500 copies of this first edition were published and very few have appeared at auction in the last 30 years.
Dated to 1879-1880, a proof copy of Burton’s translation, or “Englished” version of the 16th century Portuguese epic poem by Luis de Camoes, Os Lusiados – or ‘The Lusiads’ as it is known in English – sold at a considerably higher than predicted £4800.
Bearing many manuscript corrections and annotations throughout, it bore his bookplate on the front free endpaper.