Two remarkable Second World War manuscript books filled with comical drawings and text detailing life at a British army camp in the Middle East and its many personalities come for sale at Hansons in Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, on July 5.
The Alterbyografy of a Kamp Kat (56 pages) and A Kamp Kats Kollection of Kamp Karacters (91 pages) are written from the perspective of Little Purr, a cat living with the soldiers. The books were both completed in 1943 by a Shropshire soldier who never came home.
The vendor, who inherited them nearly 30 years ago, has provided the following statement that accompanies the two books that are offered together with an guide of £2000-4000: “The pictures were drawn by a soldier while serving out in the Middle East. He was serving with my uncle – Richard Minton – who was a member of the Shropshire Yeomanry (later Shropshire Artillery). Our understanding is he left the drawings with my uncle while he went to fight and he sadly didn’t return. My uncle returned with the pictures after the war and presumably had no details of any next of kin or relatives and thus kept them in his attic for 50 years before his death in 1994, at which time I inherited them.”
George Stubbs, previously renowned as a portrait painter, became synonymous with depicting horses after the publication of The Anatomy of the Horse in 1766. The 24 plates demonstrate both his supreme draughtsmanship and keen observational talents.
This first-edition, first-issue copy (without watermarks) has an ink stamp of the Royal Veterinary College. It came from the private collection of the late book dealer and collector, Norman Comben, who was permitted to purchase a few duplicate copies from the RVC library in return for a detailed cataloguing of their collection many years ago. It is expected to bring £6000-8000 at Forum Auctions' May 26 sale of Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper.
Icon of incunabula
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili or Dream of Poliphilus by Francesco Colonna has long been considered one of the finest incunabula ever printed. The work was first published in 1499 in Venice by Aldus Manutius featuring 168 woodcuts showing the scenery, architectural settings, and some of the characters Poliphilus encounters in his dreams and he pursues his love, Polia.
A copy of the second edition with 170 woodcuts (nine of them full-page) comes for sale when Ketterer Kunst holds a rare books sale in Hamburg on May 30. Carrying two bookplates, one for the St Louis rare book collector William K Bixby (1857-1931), the other indicating it was a gift from the great American bookseller ASW Rosenbach (1876-1952) to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, it is estimated at €40,000-45,000.
This Victorian magic-related scrapbook was compiled between 1870-90.
The 200 pages are filled with letters and manuscripts, programmes, posters and broadsides for a host of different magicians and performers including Maskelyne & Cooke, Alexander Herrmann and Signor Bosco, plus handwritten instructions for parlour tricks and illusions. The scrapbook was probably assembled by the British conjurer T Edmonds who went under the stage name of Professor Era.
It will feature in the sale of Houdiniana and Magic Memorabilia to be held by Potter & Potter in Chicago on May 21 when it has an estimate of $15,000-25,000.
Heros The Spartan
Frank Bellamy is best known for illustrating Dan Dare and Fraser of Africa in The Eagle comic and Thunderbirds for TV Century 21. The double-page artwork pictured here – for sale at Comic Book Auctions in a timed online sale that closes on May 29 – is for the strip Heros The Spartan drawn and painted for The Eagle in November 1962.
‘Caeser has sent Heros and a hundred men to conquer the mysterious Island of Darkness but the cohort is ambushed by animal-like warriors. The survivors fight to reach a stockade, built by previous ill-fated legions but, that night, an awesome figure taunts Heros and his men once more to battle…’
It is estimated at £4500-5000.
The swans of Wisbech
The swan has been deemed a royal bird from the Middle Ages, and the privilege of owning a ‘game’ of swans was granted to individuals or institutions by the crown. All such birds had to be marked and pinioned to assist in any dispute over ownership, or for swan upping, when the Swan-Master would annually oversee the marking of the new cygnets.
Sworders’ August 23 sale of Books and Maps in Stansted Mountfitchet includes this two-volume manuscript used by Tudor landowners in the Hundred of Wisbech. The first volume dated 1566 contains over 600 marks, followed by 19 pages of manuscript notes concerning the ‘Laws and Ordinances regarding swan’. The names start with the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, on to the Bishop of Ely and the Dean of York and finishing with the wealthy landowners.
The second volume is dated 1834 and includes notes on swan marks followed by 84 pages of swan marks and an index of owners. A similar manuscript was sold by Christie’s in 1999. This one, from the estate of Wisbech dealer Peter Croft, is guided at £8000-16,000.
Exeter firm Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood’s Antiquarian Book Auction on May 24, a live online-only sale, includes this copy of Jonathan Greenwood’s The Sailing and Fighting Instructions or Signals As they are Observed in the Royal Navy of Great Britain. Although undated, the early 18th century text with hand-coloured illustrations is thought to be the earliest printed signal book in the English language. Estimate £1000-1500.
Brought to account
The June 4 Manuscripts Signature auction at Heritage in Dallas, Texas includes this autograph bi-fold letter by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Dated October 10, 1758, and addressed to an unknown recipient, Reynolds discusses settling financial accounts relating to John Manners, the 3rd Duke of Rutland (1696-1779).
Manners was a prolific art collector who amassed an expansive collection over two decades and his family members sat for Reynolds on many occasions. However, by 1758 he was forced to sell nearly 200 paintings for financial reasons. This letter discusses the awkward matter of substantial sums owed to Reynolds for works he had purchased on the duke’s behalf in Italy.
The text in full reads: “I must acquaint you that having accepted a draught for six hundred Pounds for the Neptune which I bought at Rome, which draught will be due in a few days, it will oblige one if you could discharge those Bills for mony [sic] which I have laid out for the Duke of Rutland. It would still add to the obligation if you can pay me the interest due on the Duke’s Bond which I hold. You may be sure I should not be solicitous about this interest, if it was not for the reason I have mentioned, and now I would much rather endeavor [sic] to borrow it than put the Duke to the least inconvenience.” The opening bid is set at $750.
Bonhams’ Fine Books & Manuscripts sale in Knightsbridge on June 22 includes, estimated at £30,000-50,000, this 1922 ‘press copy’ of James Joyce’s Ulysses. At Joyce’s request, 13 copies of Ulysses were produced to be sent out to journalists alongside the run of 1000 copies on various hand-made papers that comprise the first edition. They were cheaply produced using a mixture of paper stocks and were issued unbound. Joyce himself applied, “with great delight”, ink stamps to these copies, which read Unnumbered Press Copy below the limitation statement and Press Copy on the half-title and title.
This copy was sent to Jack Squire (1884-1958), the editor of the London Mercury. He refused to review it and it may be no coincidence that it is missing all the last page of the sexually explicit final episode, Penelope. It was saved from the flames twice by two assistant editors – first by Edward Shanks (who resigned over the censorship) and his replacement, a young Alan Pryce-Jones (1908- 2000).
Pryce-Jones later recalled: “One day, therefore, I found the unbound pages of Ulysses, minus a fair-sized lacuna, in a cupboard behind my desk. I asked how they had got there, and was ordered, ‘Burn them at once’.” He ignored the request and it now comes for sale by descent.
This view of Niagara Falls is one of a total of 12 hand-coloured elephant folio aquatints – six of Quebec City and six of Niagara – that make the full set of Canadian scenes by the military artist and topographical draughtsman Major General James Pattison Cockburn (1779-1847). Published by Ackermann & Co, London, in 1833, they are today the most celebrated 19th century prints of Canada. At Forum Auctions’ May 26 sale of Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper they carry a guide of £30,000-40,000.
Another set was offered in two separate suites of six as part of the Winkworth collection of Canadiana at Christie’s South Kensington in 2016, but the auction house has been unable to trace another example of both Cockburn suites together in a contemporary binding. This copy has the bookplate of Jeremiah James Colman (1830-98) of mustard fame.
When Shackleton cracked
Sotheby’s timed online sale of Travel, Atlases, Maps and Photographs closing on May 24 includes this silver bromide photograph of Shackleton on the Endurance taken by Frank Hurley in 1914.
The plate glass negative of this image (in the collection of the Royal Geographical Society, London) was cracked but Hurley nonetheless developed this rare large print for Shackleton’s right-hand man Commander Frank Wild (1873-1939) retouching the image to conceal the crack.
Last sold at Christie’s in 2001, it is estimated at £5000-7000.
Posters in Paris
A single-owner collection of vintage posters, many from the Art Nouveau era, will be offered for sale by Ader on May 23-24 in Paris. It was assembled over more than 30 years by Michel Romand (1929-2013) who opened the Documents Galerie in Paris in 1954.
The 360 posters will include major artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Théophile Steinlen and Jules Chéret. Pictured here is a wellpreserved poster from 1896 by the Belgian artist Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) promoting the Brussels art society known as La Libre Esthétique. The 3ft 2in x 2ft 4in (97 x 71cm) poster, which was printed in Brussels and is monogrammed lower left, has a guide of €4000-6000.
On the High Street
Books from two country house libraries are offered by Eldreds in Plymouth on June 21. Coming from the library of a family ‘with illustrious connections to the worlds of art, science and architecture’ is a copy of High Street, illustrated by Eric Ravilious, with text by architectural historian JM Richards.
First published in 1938, the book has 24 coloured lithographs by Ravilious, each one featuring a high street shop – from the butcher and the baker to, somewhat unusually, the submarine engineer. Only 2000 copies of the book were printed before the lithographic plates were destroyed in the Blitz.
Ravilious in print
A private collection of 11 wood engravings by Eric Ravilious (1903-42) forms part of the Art & Design sale at Cheffins of Cambridge on May 26. Shown here is Boy Birdsnesting, 1927, signed E Ravilious to the lower right, measuring 6 x 10in (16 x 25cm), estimated at £800-1200. This particular image is an alternative version of a plate illustrating April in The Twelve Moneths (sic) commissioned by Robert Gibbings for the Golden Cockerel Press.