A now silent stopwatch that timed the first four-minute mile, extraordinarily long menus, early playing cards, political squibs, aristocratic diaries and famous novels made for quite a mix in a December 15-16 sale held by Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium).
CB Fry (1872-1956) was a politician, diplomat, academic, writer and much more besides, but he is best remembered as a sportsman.
Cricket is the game for which he is nowadays most famous, but he also played football, making an FA Cup Final appearance for Southampton, and on one occasion equalled the world record for the long jump.
He also claimed to be able to leap from a stationary position backwards onto a mantelpiece, a remarkable feat that he apparently executed until he was into his 70s.
One of a group of original cover illustrations of c.1910 made by Henry Matthew made for one of his literary achievements, a copy of Fry’s Magazine, made £2400.
Sold at £15,000 was one of 40 special subscriber copies of the 1922, Hogarth Press first of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room. The cloth binding was showing its age but it retained a hand-printed slip filled out by Virginia for the recipient: CH Prentice of Chatto & Windus.
Inscribed and dated on the title page “John le Carré aka David J.M.Cornwell…”, a fine 1963 first of The Spy who Came in from the Cold made £7700.
Bid to £1350 was a group of three satirical broadsides that recall or relate to the activities of Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773-1835), a prosperous farmer who found a new role as a radical speaker in the Bristol area and as a political agitator at the time of the Napoleonic wars.
In 1819 Hunt was scheduled to be a speaker at a Manchester rally that is remembered now as the scene of the Peterloo massacre. Arrested and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, Hunt later went on to become an MP for Preston and is remembered as the first MP to advocate women’s suffrage. All Hunt broadsides are rare.
A very different lot with a Bristol connection came in the form of two extraordinarily long and thin broadside bills of fare printed for the landlord of the city’s Bush Tavern at Christmas 1790 and 1800. They sold at £2400.
In each the proprietor, John Weeks, lists well over 100 dishes. These are mostly fish, fowl and cuts of meat that range from roast pig to more exotic reindeer tongue, but turtle dishes are there along with all sorts of birds, among them owls, sea pheasants (pintail duck) and stares, or starlings. The inn was later made even more famous by Dickens, who used it as a setting in Pickwick Papers, but the site is now less romantically occupied by a bank.
An unexpected success was a manuscript diary kept in the years 1855-61 by Louisa Ann Beresford, Marchioness of Waterford, whose life and achievements were once rather briefly summed up as those of a Pre-Raphaelite watercolourist and philanthropist.
The author of The Story of Two Noble Lives, an 1893 biography of Louisa and her sister, Charlotte, admitted to a want of material on the former’s life and would have relished access to this diary. It sold at £7500 rather than the suggested £300-500.
Featured in News, ATG No 2524, the now ‘non-running’ stopwatch was a Nero Lemania one used by the unofficial timekeeper and stadium announcer Norris McWhirter when, in 1954, the neurologist Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile at an Oxford athletic meeting.
Offered with a small archive of photographs and papers, it made £26,000 via an online bid.
Appropriately enough, McWhirter was also the co-founder and for many years compiler, along with his brother, of the Guinness Book of Records.
The day’s best-selling lot was a complete set, in outstanding condition, of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books of 1950-56. It took £48,000.