It sold for €74,000 (£62,900) in a September 22-23 auction at the Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, premises.*
Housed in a custom-made mahogany case were not one, but two sets of the three elephant folio volumes that contain that work’s 1397 full-page engraved plates, almost a third of them fully coloured.
In a contemporary full calf binding by Hayday, one set was weak or broken at the joints but bore the inscription “Presented by his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, KG, FRS, President RI”. The second set was “as issued”, the original wrappers unopened and in very clean condition.
A complete set of the octavo text volumes also accompanied the work, complete with original wrappers but in later half morocco bindings.
A celebrated compilation of the works of Greek authors produced in the 5th century by a writer known only as Johannes of Stobi in Macedonia took €29,000 (£24,650).
A second edition of a version edited by the Swiss philologist Conrad Gessner and printed in Basle in 1549 – six years after the first – it was contained in a contemporary but rebacked and now broken calf binding.
Bid to €28,000 (£23,800) was a lot that included a collection of 24 letters addressed by the Reverend, later Cardinal and now St John Henry Newman to Thomas Gaisford of the Gaisford St Lawrence family of Howth Castle. The letters outline in detail how Newman’s visionary plan to establish a Catholic College at Oxford had been frustrated and eventually prevented by the Catholic hierarchy of the time.
A member of a prosperous Wiltshire family who had made money from water mills, Gaisford’s father, also named Thomas, was a scholar and Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford whose second wife was Lady Emily St Lawrence, eldest daughter of the 4th Earl of Howth. On his death in 1909, and having no male issue, the earl left the estate to his son-in-law, who moved with his family to Ireland and adopted the name Gaisford St Lawrence.
A collection of Thomas Gaisford’s own letters sold at €20,000 (£17,000).
One lot from the Fonsie Mealy sale illustrated above is a pencil drawing of Oxford Cathedral: The Choir, signed and dated 1838 by John Ruskin. It was accompanied by an 1843 letter to Dean Gaisford in which Ruskin apologises profusely for his “very poor sketch” and ends with the words “had my powers of execution been at all proportioned to my gratitude for your former constant and great kindness, it would have been worthy your acceptance”.
Ruskin’s drawing sold at €13,000 (£11,050), nevertheless.
* A report on the September 8-9 sale of the furnishings, pictures and other contents of Howth Castle, held on site rather than in Fonsie Mealy’s Castlecomer rooms, as here, appeared in ATG No 2512.