The 77 lots in a Bloomsbury Auctions (25% buyer’s premium) sale that ended on March 28 included, at £30,000, a 1937 copy of The Hobbit that was described as an exceptionally crisp example of the first impression.
Records suggest that only one other straightforward, uninscribed first has made more – that in the Gordon Waldorf collection, which in 2014 at Sotheby’s New York reached a considerably higher $80,000 (then £48,040).
New World order
Another highlight was a fine, signed copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World of 1932. There were a few spots, bumps and creases but overall it was reckoned an exemplary copy and sold at £12,000.
A copy in the superb Neville library, inscribed in 1937 for a Californian librarian and collector that Huxley met while living in Los Angeles and writing screenplays, is the only example to have fared better at auction. In 2004 it made $25,000 (then £14,115) at Sotheby’s New York.
Most lots featured groups of an author’s books, but notable among the single titles offered were George Orwell’s Animal Farm of 1945 at £3200, a signed copy of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim of 1953 at a strong £3500, and William Trevor’s A Standard of Behaviour of 1958, again signed, at a record £600.
A signed copy of Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie of 1959, retaining its ‘Book Society Choice’ wraparound, sold at £500. Only a copy offered by Dominic Winter in 2017 has made more, at £1500.
That one lacked a jacket, was tape repaired and generally bumped and spotted, but was inscribed to Richard Adams of Watership Down fame.
One of two copies of William Golding’s Poems of 1934 on offer contained a letter to a Miss Hughes in which he asks if he can include so far unpublished “recent and, I think, better” poems in a reading he has agreed to undertake. It made £2500.
Job lots of Golding’s books, many of them signed, also sold well but the prize item at £9000 was a copy of Lord of the Flies (1954) that he inscribed for John Dalton, a freelance journalist.