Containing 51 grisaille watercolours by Lord Mark Robert Kerr, a splendid manuscript copy of William Hamilton’s Letters concerning the Northern Coast of the County of Antrim… of 1790 bore a quite modest estimate of £500-800 in a Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) sale of September 8-9, but made £12,000.
Running to 151pp in all, this remarkable illustrated manuscript version of Hamilton’s work, one in which all of the illustrations are linked to corresponding passages in that text, was produced by a distinguished naval officer, and one much admired by Nelson.
It was Kerr who had alerted the Royal Navy to the movement of the French fleet through the Straits of Gibraltar in that fateful year of 1805, but it is thought unlikely that Nelson ever knew that Kerr was also a talented artist.
A 1704, first issue of Isaac Newton’s Opticks…, a lightly washed example in a re-backed but contemporary binding, was one of the day’s more expensive lots at a mid-estimate £24,000.
An illustrated manuscript of the 1720s, running to some 200pp and focused on Biblical meditations and verses, sold at a much higher than predicted £20,000.
This was the work of Robert Dodsley, a Mansfield schoolmaster and father of the poet, playwright and publisher of the same name who was a protegé of Defoe and Pope as well as friend and patron of Johnson.
It is possible, said the cataloguer, that the work was compiled by Dodsley Senior for the instruction of his pupils and even his own children.
Bound in a battered old volume with eight other medical dissertations of much the same period was one that marked the first appearance in print of Joseph Black’s doctoral dissertation, his Dissertatio medica inauguralis, de humore acido a cibis orto, et magnesia alba…
Printed in Edinburgh in 1754, it was Black’s first and only major publication, but one that secured his scientific renown. According to the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, it was the work in which he demonstrated that an aeriform fluid he called “fixed air” (carbon dioxide gas) was a quantitive constituent of such alkaline substances as Magnesia Alba, lime potash, and soda.
In the 19th century William Osler, a Canadian physician and one of the four founding professors of the famous Johns Hopkins Hospital in America, wrote: “There is perhaps no other instance of a graduation thesis so weighted with significant novelty.”
Of near legendary rarity, this original printed version of a dissertation that he later went on to expand and revise is nowadays pretty much unobtainable and confined to institutional collections. Just seven copies are recorded in the UK, one in the Netherlands and three in North America. Estimated at £2000-3000, this rare example went on to sell at £46,000.
A tiny angling book of 1716, an enlarged fourth edition of John Smith’s The Compleat Fisher; or, the True Art of Angling…, a work that was first published in 1696 and ran to a dozen editions up to the year 1770, took £4800 from an internet bidder.
All editions are nowadays quite rare and this one in its worn but contemporary binding included a new frontispiece among its eight woodcut illustrations.
Based on his own experiments in stocking a fish pond, a 1600 first in a 19th century binding of John Taverner’s Certain Experiments Concerning Fish and Fruite was offered as the very next lot in South Cerney and sold online at £5000.
Cartographic attractions included an example of the 1511, first and only edition of a cordiform, or heart-shaped world map by Bernardus Sylvanus, one that includes some very early North American detail. It was sold at £32,000.
Published some 400 years later was a map of London that could hardly be more removed in its inspiration.
Titled, around its edges, ‘If you would save your Dog from Distemper send your Pounds and Pence to the Fund – The Field Distemper Fund’ and published in 1914, it was a version of MacDonald Gill’s ‘Wonderground Map’ of London and had proved a great fund-raising success. This example sold at £4000.
Depicting a mounted soldier, seen from the rear as a nun walks towards him, an ink drawing by Robert Baden-Powell titled Peace & War, Mafeking 19.11.99 sold well at £3800, and a copy of Ronald Searle’s well-known Anatomy of an Antiquarian Bookseller of 1976, a coloured litho print that was signed and dated by the artist, took £1500.