It had also held a general book sale on December 19, and among the highlights was a first UK edition of Franz Kafka’s The Castle.
Still in its unprepossessing but original dust jacket, showing a few defects but generally fine and unclipped, it had been priced in 1930 at 7s 6d. Eighty-eight years later it sold for what would appear to be a record £1400.
The Discovery of a World in the Moone, or, a Discourse Tending to Prove, That ‘tis Probable there may be Another Habitable World… of 1638 is not so much science fiction as speculative, or even fanciful and anonymously published non-fiction.
It is the work of John Wilkins, a clergyman, polymath, founder member of the Royal Society and brother-in-law of Cromwell, who argues that the moon might be inhabited. He writes: “The strangeness of this opinion is no sufficient reason why it should be rejected, because other certaine truths have been formerly esteemed ridiculous, and great absurdities entertayned by common consent.”
The first edition in half calf offered in Leyburn sold at £3000, a sum only once bettered at auction: £4200 at Bonhams in 2012.