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Forum Auctions has had another terrific year that saw turnover increase by 40%; we predicted in last year’s introductory message that the ‘Rothamsted agricultural library will be one of 2018’s landmark auctions’, and so it proved to be. The ‘white-glove’ sale of more than 800 lots sold in three sessions over two days for a hammer total of £1.7m, some three times the pre-sale estimate.

We have chosen to put great emphasis on our e-commerce business which reflects the way in which many collectors and dealers in this sector search and bid for the items they want. As a result, the frequency and size of our online sales of general books has doubled, now incorporating specialist offerings such as Maps and Atlases, Art Reference and Modern Literature & Illustrated Books.

Our overall selling rate exceeded 85% of lots offered, with 75% of these selling online.

Forum’s other departments also produced notable results – Modern and Contemporary prints have had major successes with Hockney, Picasso, Warhol, Dalí and Harland Miller and we continue to lead the market for Banksy numbered prints, with two in five of those auctioned last year passing through Forum.

The only book you ever regret is the one you didn’t buy

Likewise, Old Master and 19th century works on paper have had something of a renaissance as buyers see this sector as a good-value way of acquiring a work by a well-known name. The exceptional results we have seen in this area include most recently a group of George Catlin watercolours which hammered over seven-times expectations in March, selling for £155,000 (see page 32).

The Catlin works were among several major items sold by Forum that were purchased by American buyers. In May a manuscript map by Lt Col Baker titled Plan of the Province of Upper Canada, c.1793, tipped into a copy of Samuel Hearne’s A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson’s Bay, 1795, estimated at £6000-8000, hammered £26,000. The Rothamsted sale included a lovely copy of the scarce second English edition of Monardes’ Joyfull Newes out of the Newfound World, 1580, which included a lengthy description of the American ‘tabaco’ plant introduced to Europe – it sold for £17,000.

Fox Pointe Manor collection

Our forthcoming July 10 sale of 250 lots from the Knohl collection at Fox Pointe Manor in California focuses on English books from the 16th and 17th centuries and includes some important Americana. But the books cover a wide range of subjects – poetry, plays, law, cookery, military, science, medicine, classics, philosophy, sport, agriculture, travel, atlases, economics, mineralogy and British topography. Contemporary bindings are prevalent and many have interesting associations or inscriptions.

As an auctioneer it is always a pleasure to handle these items, research and catalogue them and then discuss them with prospective bidders who will respect and enjoy them as much as we do.

We look forward to welcoming collectors, dealers and all book lovers from around the world to our rooms and we hope you find books or other printed, manuscript or graphic material to enjoy and own. As someone said to me at the beginning of my career, ‘the only book you ever regret is the one you didn’t buy’.

It is, of course, also the case that without the trust of our vendors we would have no books to auction, and I invite all prospective sellers who have yet to experience our attentive and competitive services to get in touch before deciding how and where to dispose of their treasures.


Rupert Powell, Deputy Chairman and International Head of Books at Forum Auctions.