The Gorgon’ features on the title-page of a 1607 first of Topsell’s Historie of Foure-footed Beastes which sold for $12,500 (£9615) at Skinner.

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Extensively annotated, it was a marked-up copy of the 1893, third edition that Charles Dodgson considered to be so badly printed that he demanded his publishers should recall those copies already dispatched and start again.

Though it is not so recorded in the auction records that I regularly consult, a reader kindly pointed out that it was a copy that had made that very same sum when offered in 2005 at Christie’s South Kensington. This was quickly confirmed by my file copy of the catalogue issued for the sale of the Nicholas Falletta collection of Lewis Carroll books and manuscripts.

I was also alerted to the fact that before it entered the collection from which it was sold this summer, it had been with

Among early English books from the library of Dr Howard Knohl* offered by Skinner (23% buyer’s premium) of Boston on July 19 was a 1576 first English edition of a 1552 Thesaurus... of medicinal remedies produced by the Swiss physician, naturalist, bibliographer and would-be polymath, Conrad Gesner.

Sold for $13,000 (£10,000) it was a translation by George Baker, physician to the illustrious de Vere family, and appeared as The Newe Jewell of Health... with numerous woodcut illustrations.

Baker also took the trouble to explain that his translation was deliberately opaque, as “I would not have every ignorant asse to be made a chirurgian by my book, for they would do more harm than good”.

The cataloguer also noted that Baker’s presence in the de Vere household and allusions in ‘Sonnet 119’ to alchemical apparatus illustrated in the book have been used as evidence by those who claim that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true creator of Shakespeare’s plays.

Creature features

Sold for $12,500 (£9615) was a volume containing 1607-08 firsts of Edward Topsell’s Historie of Foure- Footed Beastes... and Historie of Serpents. These much reprinted bestiaries are made particularly appealing to modern eyes by the author’s repetition of curious legends that attach to many of the creatures.

Weasels give birth through their ears, lemmings graze in the clouds and elephants, who worship the sun and the moon, get pregnant by chewing on mandrake. Apes, Topsell reports, are terrified of snails.

* The principal sale of books from Dr Knohl’s ‘Fox Pointe Manor’ library was held by Sotheby’s New York in 2016.