Bid to what seems to be a record £3800 at Bellmans (20% buyer’s premium) was a copy in a fine gilt decorated calf binding by Rivière of Thomas Shelton’s 1652 translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
It bore the bookplate of Samuel Ashton Thompson Yates, linking it to a once little-known Herefordshire country house library that in 2014 Christie’s dispersed for £5m in a sale it called Yates, Thompson & Bright: A Family of Bibliophiles.
Another lot with a notable provenance was Pierre Gilles’ Descriptio Nova Elephanti… Bearing a 1614 Hamburg imprint, this early work on the elephant and other animals such as the hippopotamus, camel and crocodile.
An ink note reading ‘Beckford Sale lot 166’ indicates yet another auction outing for the only ever copy to have appeared at auction. In a 19th century binding of red morocco gilt, it was part of William Beckford’s Hamilton Palace library before passing into that of the 5th Earl of Rosebery. In the latter’s 1975 sale, again at Sotheby’s, it sold for £150, but in 2004, as part of a four auction dispersal of the Quentin Keynes library, it made £4000 at Christies.
This time out the price was a much more modest £1750.
Dickens on Sunday
Sunday under Three Heads, a little volume which purports to be the work of a Timothy Sparks, is in fact a very early, 1836 work by Charles Dickens.
Illustrated with a frontispiece and two other plates after Hablot K Browne, it was prompted by Dickens’ opposition to proposals to introduce more rigid laws respecting Sunday observance. Dickens’ view was that such laws would be harder on the poor than the rich. Sabbath excursions and other harmless Sunday amusements, he felt, countered a tendency towards dissipation that otherwise characterised the habits of London’s working classes.
In worn but original wrappers it was lotted with a very poor, 1830 edition of The Real Devil’s Walk…, a satire on the works of Coleridge and Southey illustrated by Isaac Robert, brother of artist and illustrator, George Cruikshank.
Other examples of Sunday under Three Heads have made more at auction, among them Dickens’ own copy. Bearing his bookplate, the copy in the great Dickens collections of Kenyon Starling and William E Self made $7500 (then £3790) at Christie’s New York in 2008, but back in 1992, at Swann Galleries, a copy that Dickens inscribed for his solicitor, Thomas Mitton, sold at $7000 (then around £4500).
The latter was bound in half morocco but retained the front wrapper.