First edition of The Land of Green Ginger by Winifred Holtby, £1400 at Spicers.

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Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) is best known for South Riding, her novel actually published posthumously in 1936, especially after a BBC TV series that aired in 2011.

At Oxford University she became friends with Vera Brittain, author of Testament of Youth, and on graduation in 1921 they both moved to London to follow literary careers.

She wrote 14 books including six novels, working intensely to finish South Riding after being diagnosed with Bright’s disease in 1931 - being given just two years to live initially.

Holtby was more familiar at the time through her journalism. She was also renowned as a feminist and anti-fascist campaigner.

Four-figure success

South Riding, based on a fictional South Riding of Yorkshire (Holtby’s home county), was a hit and a film version was released in 1938 starring Ralph Richardson.

Land of Green Ginger (Jonathan Cape, 1927) was one of her early novels that met only moderate success. Nearly a hundred years after it appeared, a copy that came up for auction at East Yorkshire saleroom Spicers (20% buyer’s premium) did prove very popular with bidders, however.

The first edition with dust wrapper had the bonus of an inscription to the front free endpaper To Lady Rhondda, with gratitude & affection from Winifred Holtby Sept: 1927.

Lady Rhondda was Margaret Haig Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda (née Thomas, 1883-1958). She was a close friend of Holtby.

According to, Lady Rhondda - a Suffragette and equalitarian feminist, daughter of an MP - “survived the sinking of the Lusitania, promoted women’s work during the war and was a successful businesswoman and magazine proprietor. She became a hereditary woman peer in her own right and fought a famous test case in an unsuccessful attempt to take her seat in the House of Lords in the 1920s.

“Margaret was the daughter of Liberal MP and Welsh businessman David Alfred Thomas and Sybil Margaret Thomas (née Haig, distantly related to Field Marshal Douglas Haig who was commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France 1915-18).”

Estimated at £80-120 at the saleroom in Old Goole, Land of Green Ginger hammered down at £1400 to the UK book trade.

Spicers said it came from a deceased estate, adding: “We don’t know why he had the specific book as it has come from Lady Rhondda’s collection at some point, other than they were known to collect books by authors local to East Yorkshire and Yorkshire.”