Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-like Closet…, sold for £4800 by Bonhams.

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Eighty or so lots from the cookery collection of Ruth Watson, an English hotelier, broadcaster and food writer, opened an August 19 London sale and served up some of the higher prices for manuscripts.

Bid to £9500 at Bonhams (27.5/25/20/13.9% buyer’s premium) was a compilation of recipes and household hints kept in the 18th-19th centuries by members of the Croft family of wine-shippers from Stillington Hall in Yorkshire.

The Crofts, said the cataloguer, were also friends of Laurence Sterne, who may well have dined off some of the dishes.

A bound collection of culinary and medicinal recipes bearing the 1658 ownership inscription of a Sarah Turner, but exhibiting many different hands and continued to the mid-18th century, reached £12,000.

Many lots were multiples, but one of the earlier and more successful single lots was Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-like Closet…

Unfashionable ingredients

The author may not have been the first person to earn a living from books on household management, said Bonhams, but she sought to address servants for the first time and introduced unfashionable ingredients such as anchovies, capers and wine into her simplified dishes. She also helped bring in pumpkins and molasses from the New World.

It first appeared in 1670, but this 1674-75 third edition was the first to contain an extra ‘Supplement’ and with a few headlines just shaved in its 19th century binding it set an auction record for any edition, at £4800.


The frontispiece to Elizabeth Price’s New Book of Cookery…, £2500 at Bonhams.

A 1780 ‘new’ edition of Elizabeth Price’s New Book of Cookery, or Every Woman a Perfect Cook…, again in a modern binding, made £2500.

Often lacking or defective when such rare copies come to auction, the frontispiece (above) shows the range of fittings in use and assorted culinary treats, among them what appears to be a hare, hang on the walls.

Sold at £5000 in its modern half morocco binding was a very rare 1758 manual for housemaids and kitchen staff by a Mrs Wilkinson: The Complete Servant Maid; Containing all that is Necessary to be Known to be Qualified for the Following Places, viz. Ladies Maid, Housekeeper, Chamber Maid, Scullery Maid…

Tolstoy made complete

In the broader sale, a number of Continental books and manuscripts bearing substantial five-figure estimates, works by Goethe, Baudelaire and Descartes among them, failed to sell, but there were plenty of other attractions.

An 1878, Moscow first of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in a refurbished contemporary binding sold at £9000. The novel had previously been serialised in Ruskii Vestnik, but Tolstoy’s disagreements with the journal’s editor prevented publication of the final instalment and this was the first appearance of the complete text.


Panoramic view of an 1895 test match between Australia and England. Part of a photo collection – £25,000 at Bonhams.

Bid to £25,000 were two handsomely bound oblong folio volumes containing 100 and more mounted photographs of New South Wales – an 1896 gift to Lady Darley, whose husband, Sir Frederick, had served briefly as state governor.

Among them were 11 folding panoramas, two of which featured cricket matches. That seen above was made at the fifth and final test match between England and Australia on their 1894-95 overseas tour.

Panoramic views were also among the more expensive of photographic lots featuring the work of Felice Beato. One of Delhi, dating from 1858, realised £20,000 and a slightly earlier one of Lucknow, £14,000.

Wisdom of TE Lawrence

Sold at £28,000 was one of the 32 or so “incomplete” examples of the original edition of 170 copies of Seven Pillars of Wisdom that TE Lawrence had printed in 1926.

Complete with all text but lacking a few illustrations, these copies were given by Lawrence to close friends and colleagues who had served with him during the Arab campaign.

Bound in blue half morocco gilt, this one was inscribed for George Lloyd, who first met Lawrence in 1914, while working for the Intelligence Department in Cairo. He helped plan the Arab Revolt and in 1917 accompanied Lawrence on a mission to destroy the main bridge on the railway line from Mecca. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom Lawrence describes Lloyd as “one of the best fellows and least obtrusive travellers alive…”

Mansfield works


A 1920 first of Katherine Mansfield’s Bliss and other Stories in a rarely seen dust jacket, sold for £6000 at Bonhams.

Works by Katherine Mansfield included a first of Bliss and other Stories of 1920 in a rarely seen dust jacket that sold for £6000. It was one of just 100 copies in original plain green wrappers of her second collection of short stories.

Sold at £3500 was a copy of the unexpurgated, 1919 Heron Press first of Mansfield’s Je ne parle pas français, which was edited, or as Bonhams says, bowdlerised by Michael Sadleir for a Constable edition of the following year.

John Middleton Murry, Masefield’s husband, later wrote of the original that it had actually been printed by him and his brother in 1918, and “the stitching and binding took us the whole of January. Of the original 100 copies, about 20 were spoiled, and … perhaps 60 actually issued.”

Sold at £9000 was a 1930 first of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies in a first-state jacket.

Finally, a very brief note on the lot that had the longest catalogue entry: a series of 126 letters, some illustrated, sent by the Welsh poet and painter David Jones in the years 1959-74 to Valerie Wynne-Williams. It sold at £28,000.