One of just 2000 copies printed, a rare 1939 first of George Orwell’s 'Coming Up for Air' sold for £12,000 at Forum.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

A sale that marked the fifth anniversary of the founding of Forum Auctions (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) opened with a small selection of books from the library of the late Frank Herrmann.

The much-loved writer and collector enjoyed a successful career with Sotheby’s before leaving in 1982 to found another specialist saleroom, Bloomsbury Book Auctions.

Among those Herrmann lots was copy of the 1892, Kelmscott edition of the Biblia Innocentum… of JW McKail, the man who wrote the official biography of the founder of that private press, William Morris. Bearing a later inscription that Forum suggested might be that of its author, it sold at £3200.


Last seen in 1993, when sold for $1000 by Sotheby’s New York as part of the great Bradley Martin library, the only copy recorded at auction of the first series of Illustrations of Typical Birds produced in 1900 by Theophilus Johnson made £5500 at Forum. An English amateur naturalist and artist, Johnson illustrated his privately printed works with his own mounted gouache illustrations.

Set of statutes

The earlier lots in the July 15 auction included a finely bound set of English Statutes, dating from the reign of Edward VI onwards and printed in the years 1570-76. The subject of an earlier story on the ATG website, they sold at £15,000.

‘The Prognostication For Ever of Erra Pater’, a rare manuscript version of a pseudonymous 16th century mix of astrological and medical advice produced by a Jewish ‘Doctour in Astronomye and Physicke’, a work previewed in ATG No 2500, took £16,000.

A 1621, second and enlarged edition of Kepler’s first published work, his Prodromus Dissertationum Cosmographicarum…, which deals with the orbits of the planets and offers a defence of Copernican theories, sold at £11,000.

Other early printed works included a 1651 first issue of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme & Power of a Common-Wealth that in a rebacked period binding made £13,000.


The title page of a 1651, first issue example of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme & Power of a Common-Wealth, a work that has been compared with those of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Rousseau and Kant in terms of its political significance. It made £13,000 at Forum.

Kitchen think

Cookery manuscripts often make higher than suggested sums at auction and here a 54pp example, spanning the second half of the 18th century and accomplished in several hands, but with all the recipes related to what was being prepared in the kitchens at Wooton House in Laceby, Lincolnshire, sold well at £3500.

Extensively annotated, both to the original text and on inserted leaves, and in both Japanese characters and English, an 1867 first of JC Hepburn’s pioneering Japanese and English Dictionary sold for £3500.

Literary lots from the 19th and 20th centuries played a major role in the Forum sale.

The tale of the 1865 first issue of Alice in Wonderland, recalled and suppressed when the illustrator John Tenniel complained about the quality of the printing, is pretty well known. Less familiar, perhaps, is the story of the ‘Sixtieth Thousand’ issue of Through the Looking Glass…

Where that 1893, third edition was concerned, however, it was the author, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), who threatened to terminate his contract with the publisher, Macmillan, over what he saw as poor printing.

Sixty copies had already been sent out but he insisted that the remainder of the edition should be destroyed and as a result the book did not get back into print until 1897.

Dodgson later changed his mind about destroying all those original copies, choosing instead to have them rebound and distributed to charitable institutions, as had been done with suppressed copies of Alice….

Sold at £5800 was a three-decker first in a later cloth binding of Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Wyvern Mystery of 1869, while a 1919 first in a simple printed jacket of War’s Embers and other Verses by Ivor Gurney reached £1700.

Offered in one of those familiar yellow dust jackets with red and black lettering favoured by Gollancz was one of just 2000 first edition copies of George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air issued in 1939. It sold at £12,000.

Bearing the author’s presentation inscription on the title page, and in those very same, very familiar Gollancz colours, was a 1961 first of John Le Carré’s very first book, Call for the Dead of 1961, in which George Smiley makes his first appearance. A copy that its author inscribed for the writer and critic Clive Hirschhorn, it too sold at £12,000.

Complete with jackets and all inscribed to his son Auberon’s mother-in-law, a first edition set of the three novels of 1952-61 by Evelyn Waugh that make up the Sword of Honour trilogy sold at £8000.


A finely preserved 1930 first of Arthur Ransome’s 'Swallows and Amazons' sold for £7500 at Forum.

Billed as in superb condition in its busy cartographic and heraldic dust jacket by Stephen Spurrier, a 1930 first of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons just topped the high estimate to sell at £7500.

Sold at a low-estimate £20,000 was a group of seven issues in original wrappers of the seminal photographic quarterly Camera Work, dating from the years 1913-16.

Edited by Alfred Steiglitz and including examples of his own work along with that of many others, these publications have been described as “by far the most beautiful of all photographic magazines”.