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The autograph letter, penned by Burns from Ellisland Farm on December 1, 1790, references “one of the Aloway Kirk stories, done in Scots verse” – his celebrated poem Tam o’Shanter: Tale. It has an estimate of £9000-12,000 at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on June 17.

Only around 50 leaves from the original handwritten pages of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club have survived and just five remain in private hands. Marking 150 years since Dickens’ death, London dealer Peter Harrington has one priced at £97,500.

The Dickens anniversary was due to be the theme of Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair, cancelled this year due to Covid-19.

Instead, organisers the Antiquarian Booksellers Association will hold a highlights-based virtual bookfair on the Firsts London website launching on June 5. The Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association is also now holding monthly virtual fairs.

A selection of items from book auctions, online book fairs and dealers appear in this week’s issue, including a presentation copy of the first edition of Newton’s Opticks, 1704, estimated at £300,000-400,000 at Forum Auctions.