A fascinating library that reflected the owner’s particular interests, among them English history and law, made up a January 25 sale held by Tennants (22% buyer’s premium).
A friend’s personal introduction to the catalogue produced by the saleroom in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, explained that even as a schoolboy the late David Stather was given valuable advice on collecting by a well-known local dealer, Ken Spelman of York who sold the business on in the 1970s.
Stather’s own retirement as a solicitor allowed him to focus even more closely on books themselves.
In later years he rescued many worthy books in a forlorn state and had them bound in a more befitting style to ensure their survival.
The saleroom also noted that many of his books contributed to English history rather than just reported on it.
For example, books covering the Popish Plot, which were written specifically to create social division through what is now known as ‘fake news’.
The auction achieved a total hammer price of £272,570 overall, with 99% of the 228 lots sold.
Pamphlets price surprise
The top lot, bid to £16,000 rather than a suggested £400-600, was a collection of 41 pamphlets focusing on the English Civil War period of the mid-17th century.
No-one had expected them to go so cheaply, said one dealer who offered ATG his post-sale impressions of the sale, but that final result did come as a surprise still.
A lot presenting 10 pamphlets of that same period but in which events in Yorkshire were the particular focus also sold well, at £3800.
Other manuscript successes included, again at £3800, an anonymous treatise of 1633 concerning ‘ArchBishopps, Bishopps, Deanes, Chapters…’ along with other ecclesiastical concerns, while bid to £3500 was a manuscript of 1679, ’Memories of the Reign of King Charles the First’.
Acquired at a 2004 Christie’s sale of works from Chirk Castle on the Anglo/Welsh borders, it was later identified by Stather as the work of Sir Philip Warwick.
A mid-16th century copy of The Workes of Sir Thomas More… that made £10,000 had once belonged, as an inscription revealed, to William Roper, or Rooper (1496-1578).
Originally from Kent, Roper was a lawyer and MP who married More’s daughter, Margaret, and lived with her family for many years. He was later to write a biography of his famous father-in-law.
In a worn and crudely restored period binding, a copy of the Whole workes… of three English martyrs, William Tyndale, John Frith and Doctor Robert Barnes, made £8000.
The auction also included a number of lots focusing on witchcraft.
Among them was a manuscript, last seen in a sale of works from the library of Robert Lenkiewicz held at Sotheby’s in 2003, that presents a ‘Discourse of Witchcraft… as it was acted in the family of an Edward Fairfax of Fuystone in the County of Yorke in 1621’. It sold at £5000.
Other ex-Lenkiewicz lots included, at £5000, a 1682 first of an anonymous Tryal of Witches, at the Assizes held at Bury St Edmonds in 1664, and a work of 1645, attributed to someone identified by the initals HF and concerning witch trials in Chelmsford, that made £4000.
Finally, something that is perhaps more appetising from the Yorkshire sale.
Claret Pudding, Roakey Beef, Syrrup of Violets and Licorish Cakes were said to be among the recipes in a late 17th/early 18th century cookery manuscript that sold at £4000.