Set of Great Expectations, published in 1861 by Chapman and Hall, $14,000 (£11,050) at Ahlers & Ogletree.

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A first-edition, three-volume set of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations was offered among historical books and documents from the estate of Fred Bentley, Sr of Atlanta.

The sale took place from February 7-9 at Ahlers & Ogletree (25% buyer’s premium) also of Atlanta. It comprised over 900 lots in all. Bentley gave generously and founded the rare book rooms at a college and a university, both in Georgia.

The set of Great Expectations, published in 1861 by Chapman and Hall, sold for $14,000 (£11,050) against an estimate of $1000-2000. The books were finely bound in tan calf with raised bands and there was gilt tilting and decoration on the spine. The pages were clean.

The publication of the work as a three-volume set was unique in Dickens’ works, with an eye on library use (it is thought that out of 1000 first edition copies and 750 second editions printed that Mudie’s Circulating Library took most of the former and more than half of the second). Many were destroyed or damaged given multiple borrowing.

A Chapman and Hall, 1861, first edition, first issue three-volume set sold for $20,000 (£15,790) at Potter & Potter of Chicago in June last year.

Certain ‘issue points’ in the first edition (such as loss of type) indicate earliest printings and therefore highest value. Later bindings also affect the price.

First editions ticking the right boxes have hit four figures. The copy of Great Expectations offered in the splendid Dickens collection formed by London accountant Lawrence Drizen did rather better in 2019. Described as “miraculously well preserved”, it sold for a hefty £140,000 at Sotheby’s (see ATG No 2415).

At Ahlers & Ogletree a first edition, first state copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, published in 1859 by Chapman and Hall, with illustrations by HK Browne, guided at $1500-2000, made $7000 (£5530). The book was bound in the original cloth. The front and back covers were stamped with one thick and two thin line borders.

Roberts sketchbook


A 19th century sketchbook of the Scottish painter David Roberts, $7500 (£5920) at Ahlers & Ogletree.

Another British highlight was a 19th century sketchbook of the Scottish painter David Roberts (1796-1864), consisting of five sketches, three of them signed by Roberts. It was knocked down for $7500 (£5920), 15 times the low estimate.

The sketches were of two boats with a background of a large mountain; a two-page pencil drawing of Naples; a study of cows and a donkey, signed; a two-page pencil drawing of Florence; and unknown buildings.

Lots related to US authors included works by Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain, 1835-1910). A first edition copy of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published by American Publishing Co, bound in the publisher’s three-quarter Morocco binding, was one of 200 copies offered in leather.

The book came in a custom leather clamshell case with gilt tilting. It sold for $19,000 (£15,000) on an estimate of $5000-7000