The descriptive title-page of the 1643 first edition of New Englands First Fruits… sold by Freeman’s at $220,000 (£194,690).

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A first edition example of a rare work on early colonial days in North America and the first, it would seem, to have come to auction in over 20 years, it had been given a high estimate of $30,000 in a September 21 sale held by Freeman’s (26/21/15% buyer’s premium), but was bid instead to a far more substantial $220,000 (£194,690).

Harvard emerges

A rare example of a work often attributed to the Puritan missionary John Eliot (1604-90), and the first of 11 pamphlets that he published in 1643-71, it describes early colonial life in New England, along with Puritan efforts to convert the indigenous tribes of the region to Christianity.

It is also notable for featuring the first printed account of Harvard College, which had been founded only seven years prior to the appearance of this publication.

“After God had carried us safe to New-England, and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our liveli-hood, rear’d convenient places for Gods worship, and setled the Civill Government: One of the next things we longed for … was to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministery to the Churches… it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard… to give the one halfe of his Estate… towards the erecting of a Colledge, and all his Library…”

Preserved in a rebacked 19th century binding of full tan calf gilt by Bedford, it was presumed by the saleroom to a be a copy that once formed part of the collection of the renowned American bibliographer, Henry Stevens (d.1886), a belief strengthened by the presence in this copy of a lot description from the 1861 Puttick & Simpson auction catalogue produced for his library.

The book subsequently came into the possession of Charles I Sturgis (1860-92) and passed by descent in the family.

Top sum for B binding


The copy of Frank L Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sold at Freeman's for $30,000 (£26,550).

One of the other successes of the Philadelphia sale was a fine copy of the 1900 first edition of Frank L Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

It sold at $30,000 (£26,550), some three times what had been suggested.

The binding was noted as being in the second, or B-state. Freeman’s pointed out that the A-state is often associated with the early presentation copies (some of which, especially those with significant inscriptions, have made very much higher sums) and are “excessively rare”.

This would, nevertheless, appear to be an auction record for a copy of this famous work in a ‘B’ state version of the binding.