A secretarial letter of 1568 to which Mary, Queen of Scots, who had only recently escaped from captivity at Lochleven Castle, had added her own autograph note, led a February 2 sale held by Lyon & Turnbull (25/20% buyer’s premium) of Edinburgh at £26,000.
It was among the books, manuscripts, maps and photographs from what was billed as the Classical & Romantic library of the historian and writer, the late William St Clair, that made up this sale.
Mary’s note was added to an official request to the French ambassador at Elizabeth I’s court that asked that the bearer, George Douglas, who was carrying letters from Mary to King Charles IX and Catherine de Medici, be granted safe passage to France.
Mother and daughter
A copy of a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft that hangs in the National Gallery is featured among the accompanying illustrations, but amid those lots that produced much, much higher than estimated sums was a 1789 first in later, broken boards of a work by an elocution teacher, a Mr Creswick.
This exceptionally rare work was prefixed by a ‘Preface containing some hints on Female Education’ by Wollstonecraft and it sold at £9500, some 10 times the high estimate.
In a broken binding and seriously dampstained and browned, an 1831 third edition of her daughter, Mary Shelley’s most famous book, Frankenstein, issued by Colburn & Bentley as part of their ‘Standard Novels’ series and bearing on the frontispiece and title-page the first illustrations of her most famous creation, realised £6000.
In 1826 Colburn had printed two editions of Shelley’s The Last Man in England and a third in Paris. A copy of the latter, still in the original wrappers, was sold at £4000.
Black Forest tale
The lot that had opened the L&T sale was The Necromancer: or the Tale of the Black Forest… A first English language edition of a work by Lawrence Flammenberg, translated by Peter Teuthold and issued by the Minerva press in 1794, it sold at £4400.
Among other lots sold for far higher than expexted sums was an unpublished manuscript called ‘Description de la Ville de Constantinople et de ses Antiquites’. Running to 242pp and vellum bound, this was an unpublished work by Georges Guillet de St George, probably dating from the 1670s. It made £14,000 rather than the suggested £500-700.
An even higher increase over estimate was recorded for a lot offering The Plan of the French Encyclopedia, a 1752 English language version of the 10pp Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences. Proposés par Souscription of the previous year.
The latter lacked a double-page ‘Systême Figuré des Connoisances Humaines’ but the lot sold at £16,000 rather than £250-350.