Details from the ‘Marriage Guidance’ manuscript sold by Forum for £32,000, showing a priest and the happy couple in an historiated initial.

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Thought to date from c.1270 and to have its origins in Paris or Burgundy, this was a manuscript copy of St Raymond of Peñafort’s Summa de casibus poenitentiae et matrimonio.

It was written to aid the Catalan author’s Dominican brothers in dealing with confessional problems that touched on marriage.

Dealing with such matters as the use of force in achieving consent as well as difficulties with sexual intercourse, it concludes with an overview of procedures for obtaining a separation because of adultery, along with advice on the legitimacy of children and dowries.


Page from the ‘Marriage Guidance’ manuscript sold by Forum for £32,000.

Laying down the law

Dating from c.1450, perhaps German in origin and executed in a cursive book hand, was a version of the Decretum Gratiani, the great corpus of ecclesiastical law compiled by Raymond of Peñafort at the direction of Pope Gregory IX.

The Decretals remained a key and influential work until the codification of canon law in 1917.

This paper manuscript of some 150pp, catalogued as the work of a Neapolitan cleric, Laurentius Puldericus, sold well at £17,000.

Translated from a French text, a 1550 first English edition (in a 19th century vellum binding) of Thucydides’ account of the 5th century BC war between Athens and Sparta, a work that also analyses the political and moral policies that fuelled the conflict, made £14,000.

In ATG No 2424 I reported the sale at £11,000 by Dominic Winter of a volume containing copies of George Turberville’s Booke of Falconry and George Gascoigne’s The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting.

As noted at the time, these two woodcut-illustrated works, both adaptations of earlier European texts, are often found bound together and in the Forum sale on January 22 another pairing of those same 1611 second editions made £8000.

Bid to £4200 was William Fellowes’ Narrative of the Loss of His Majesty’s Packet The Lady Hobart on an island of ice in the Atlantic Ocean….

It was a somewhat soiled and stained sixth edition of 1803, but one bearing some corrections and extensive manuscript annotations that Fellowes gave to a friend many years later, in 1850.

Sailing from Halifax (Nova Scotia) for England, Fellowes’ command had struck an iceberg and sunk. Crowded into two lifeboats with very few supplies, he and the crew all reached St John’s eight days later, but suffered dreadfully from hunger and frostbite.


One of the more striking bindings in the Forum sale was made for an Italian translation (from Latin) of a 1589 issue of the Statuta of the Order of Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Executed in the bindery of Francesco Soresini, it was originally presented to the dedicatee and patron of this edition, Cardinal Hugues Loubens de Verdalle, Grand Master of the Order from 1581-95. It sold at £11,000.

The ‘best American novel’

Among modern firsts was a 1925 first issue copy of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – the book of which he modestly wrote: “I think my novel is about the best American novel ever written.” In a first-state example of Francis Cugat’s famous dust jacket, it sold online at £22,000.

The Forum sale’s top lot, a 15th century astronomical manuscript sold for £40,000, and a richly illustrated ‘Plea of the Midsummer Fairies’ manuscript of c.1890 that made £4000, were both featured in ATG No 2429.