Billed as Signed and Inscribed: a Gentleman’s Library of Modern Literature, the July 7 auction held by Forum (25/2/12.5% buyer’s premium) ran to more than 500 lots.

The works of EM Forster were very well represented and highlights included a signed 1905, first issue copy of the book that launched his career, Where Angels Fear to Tread, at £11,000, and a rare signed copy of Howard’s End of 1910 at the same price.

A 1908 first of A Room with a View delivered a real surprise at £24,000. Bearing in red ink an inscription reading “EM to AB 1918”, it was a copy given to Aida Borchgrevinck, the somewhat eccentric daughter of an American millionaire who had once trained as an opera singer and would sing Wagnerian arias loudly while driving.

Also described as a ‘tangential member of the Bloomsbury Group’, she corresponded with Forster for many years.

All the above were in the original cloth bindings, but a 1924, first trade edition of Forster’s A Passage to India retained a rare example of the plain, title and author’s name only type dust jacket and sold for a treble-estimate £20,000.

Another surprise result, at £8000 rather than the suggested £400- 600, came with the appearance of a 1936 first issue copy in dust jacket of Abinger Harvest that had been inscribed on the day before publication for the subject of one the book’s essays, Forest Reid.

The two had met at Cambridge and, said the cataloguer, maintained a correspondence and mutual admiration for the rest of their lives.

Isherwood to Greene

A 1928 first of Christopher Isherwood’s novel All the Conspirators inscribed for his cousin, Graham Greene, and containing two letters addressed to him – the earlier one of 1929 congratulating Greene on the publication of his first novel, The Man Within – made £8500.

A signed, 1939 first of Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin was sold at £7000. Bearing an amusing presentation inscription to the daughter of one of his close Oxford friends, and a man who later acted as a confidant and spiritual guide, Adam Bittleston, a 1954 first of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies made £12,000.

A fine association copy of the Golding’s The Inheritors, signed for EM Forster following an enthusiastic review that had helped secure its success, was bid to £7000.

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The very striking dust jacket of an inscribed association copy of William Golding’s The Inheritors of 1955, sold for £7000.

The works of notorious occultist Aleister Crowley were well represented and sold for £18,000 was one of 500 copies of Konx Om Pax. Essays in Light of 1907.

Crowley’s own copy, inscribed “The Beast 666/Private Copy reserved for the City of Paris”, it bears annotations to a number of pages and, towards the end, lengthy notes relating to the opening of a restaurant to be called Au Cul-de- Jatte, or the Legless Person.

There the only furniture would be mattresses, armchairs and bolsters, all dyed to to look dirty. Notes on the proposed menu and drink options include ‘Veuve Squicquot’.

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The 1929 first of Moonchild… inscribed by Aleister Crowley for his publisher, Edward Goldston, sold at £6500 by Forum.

An inscribed copy of Magick in Theory and Practice of 1929, inscribed by Crowley and possibly his own copy, said Forum, made £6000, while bid to £6500 was a 1929 first of Moonchild. A Prologue that he inscribed for his publisher and co-founder of the Mandrake Press, Edward Goldston.

American successes

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One of those works that has at some time been been described as ‘The Great American Novel’, this inscribed presentation first of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian of 1985 took £7500 from an internet bidder.

Among the American successes in the Forum sale were a work by Cormac McCarthy noted among the illustrated lots, and a copy of Jack Kerouac’s Book of Dreams.

The latter was warmly inscribed for Lucien Carr, the man who introduced Kerouac to Alan Ginsberg and William S Burroughs and was described by the cataloguer as a lynchpin figure in the Beat generation as well as a close friend and personal inspiration.

It sold at £17,000.