Smartly bound in contemporary calf gilt, a copy offered as part of an August 19 sale held by TW Gaze (18% buyer’s premium) of Diss sold at £9500 via thesaleroom.com, but a few copies in the original boards have made quite a bit more.
In 2001 a set described as “virtually unblemished” made $60,000 (then around £43,000) at Sotheby’s New York.
Keep me home
A copy of Winston Churchill’s My Early Life, A Roving Commission that sold for £3800 was a Keystone Library reprint of 1940, not a 1930 first, but it was a very special one. Still in a brown paper wrapper marked ‘By Hand… from The Prime Minister’, it was inscribed to David Julian Benn.
In later life David became a writer and BBC radio producer whose expertise in Soviet affairs led to a distinguished World Service career, but Churchill’s gift was a response to a letter that the then 11-year-old had written, anonymously, to The Times.
Fearing that with the outbreak of the Second World War he was going to be evacuated to Canada, David explained that he would “rather be bombed to fragments than leave England”.
The identity of the letter writer had been tracked down at Churchill’s special bidding.
David was the youngest son of William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate, a highly decorated officer in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. As a politician, Benn senior later served as Secretary of State for India and during the Second World War as Secretary of State for Air – and was also of course father of Tony Benn, David’s older brother.
Bid to a record £1500 in the Diss saleroom was a 1935 first of Biggles Flies East, signed and inscribed by the author to the half title, “Congratulations, WE Johns”.