One of the 12 views of Quebec and the Niagara Falls by Major General James Pattinson also sold for £130,000 at Forum Auction in May 2022.

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It never ceases to amaze me just how resilient and insulated our market is, even in times of dire economic and geo-political stress.

The Forum team has spent the past year much as ever, continuing to feed our global collectors a rich and varied diet of bibliographic rarities across the fortnightly calendar of online timed sales and bi-monthly live auctions.

Indeed, the team have, over the past year, catalogued an astonishing 10,400 lots – I shudder to think how many individual books this comprises considering our continuing commitment to serving all price levels in the market.

The sale results have been no less impressive, with a sell-through rate of 90% realising sales of £9.4m, consistently reflecting hammer outcomes at 125% of auction low estimate.

Enough of shamelessly blowing our trumpet... it has, of course, been another year of evolution at Forum Auctions. No sooner had we settled into our new premises at 4 Ingate Place than we concluded our merger into the Gurr Johns group.

To those readers unfamiliar with Gurr Johns, it is an advisory and appraisals business serving a global client base of collectors and institutions, valuing in excess of $10 billion of art and other valuables a year. Equally significantly, Gurr Johns is also the owner of Dreweatts 1759 which those of you with long memories will recall as Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, the alma mater of many of the Forum staff.

Country house prizes

This past year has been punctuated by numerous sale highlights, a number of which have pleasingly come from traditional Dreweatts ‘country house’ vendors.

In May 2022 we had the privilege of selling a folio of 12 aquatint etched views of Quebec and the Niagara Falls by renowned topographical draughtsman Major General James Pattinson for £130,000 (a premium-inclusive £162,500).

The owner of the works was unaware of their significance and the folio was recovered from the attic during a routine Dreweatts house contents valuation. January’s Fine Books auction delivered the same price for an exceedingly rare copy of De Orbe Novo, 1587 complete with the Hakluyt-Martyr map; another example of an owner hitherto unaware of the significance of this treasure in his collection.

Last year witnessed the continuing surge in interest for 20th century literature, with many of our buyers being first-time collectors who discovered the joys of this often sentimental genre during the extra leisure time afforded them during the Covid lockdowns. We now present auctions dedicated to this subject every six to eight weeks, with many volumes that were worth less than £5000 only a few years ago now making £10,000-20,000.

Single owner collections

Another change in our sales calendar has been an increase in the number of smaller single-owner collections now being offered in dedicated online sales in preference to the risk of being ‘lost’ in the larger and more varied Fine sales.

Taking to one side the sometimes over-hyped impact of the internet on auctions, there is an undeniable advantage in the flexibility of presenting compact sales of named collections more regularly without the otherwise prohibitive costs associated with a traditional auction.

That said, Forum, of course, remains resolutely committed to maintaining and growing our calendar of signature live sales, always accompanied by fully illustrated and printed catalogues.

I am also particularly excited that Forum is, for the first time, sponsoring the PBFA London International Antiquarian Book Fair running concurrently with Firsts in mid-May.

It goes without saying that I look forward to seeing many of you at our stand where we will be displaying highlights from a further offering of 16th and 17th century books from the library at Fox Pointe Manor (to be auctioned on June 15).

In conclusion to this introduction it is appropriate to thank the ATG and particularly Ian McKay for his continued informative and helpful editorial coverage of the book trade.

This annual supplement is an excellent example of their commitment to broadening the audience for our specialist market.

I must also express my gratitude to the extraordinarily hard-working, engaging and always cheerful Forum staff; if you have not had an opportunity either to buy or sell through Forum I encourage you to discover for yourself the pleasure of engaging with our team.

Rupert Powell is the Managing Director of Forum Auctions, sponsor of ATG’s Books, Maps & Prints 2023