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Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) followed up its Birmingham Assay Office Library sale (ATG No 2438) on March 27 with a general 300-lot sale.

One of the highlights at £19,000 from an online bidder was a handsome set of the plays of Euripides that once belonged to Sir Robert Peel, founder of London’s first police service and twice prime minister.

Uniformly bound in 19th century morocco gilt, it comprised two large volumes containing the first Aldine editions of 1503 and a third, slimmer volume presenting Antonio’s Blado’s 1545 Roman edition of Electra, a work lacking from the main set.

Eyes right

Bid to £24,000 online was Georg Bartisch’s Opthalmoduleia…, printed in Dresden in 1583 and the first systematic work on eye diseases and ophthalmic surgery.

Containing 88 woodcut illustrations depicting both eye disorders and instruments used in their treatment, it is especially notable for its focus on stages and procedures in the removal of cataracts – operations for which its author was especially renowned.


A plate from the 1583 first of 'Georg Bartisch’s Opthalmoduleia….' sold by Forum Auctions at £24,000.

Bearing old library stamps, it showed some occasional browning or spotting, but the vellum binding was a contemporary one with later doeskin ties. Only one copy has made more at auction. In a defective but elaborate and contemporary Saxon binding, and possibly the dedication copy to Augustus, Elector of Saxony, to whom Bartisch was appointed court oculist in 1588, it sold for £30,000 at Sotheby’s in 2015.

Lacking, as always, the suppressed poem on Cromwell, a 1681 first of Andrew Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems realised £5800. In a later polished calf binding by Bedford, it once formed part of Henry Huth’s great library.


A rare copy of the first of Dostoevsky’s books published in England, Buried Alive… (now better known as The House of the Dead) which made £850 at Forum Auctions.

Somewhat rubbed and worn in original cloth bindings, but very rare as such, were two first English editions of works by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Sold at £1200 was an 1887 volume containing both The Gambler and The Friend of the Family, but pictured above is Marie von Thilo’s translation of what is now usually referred to in English as The House of the Dead.

This 1881 edition, titled Buried Alive or Ten Years Penal Servitude in Siberia, marked the first appearance of any of the writer’s works in English. In a repaired and restored binding, it sold at £850.

A 1942 first of Jean Genet’s poem Le Condemné a Mort, written while he was serving time in the huge French prison at Fresnes, south of Paris, and printed at his own expense, appeared in well-preserved pink paper wrappers and glassine jacket. It sold online for a record £3500.

At a low-estimate £5000, a well-preserved 1945 first of Animal Farm set a record for any straightforward, uninscribed copy of George Orwell’s classic tale.