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Lot 36 (Military, Aviation & Transport History, 16th May 2019)

Darby (Henry D'Esterre, 1750-1823). Naval archive, 1795-1800.

Sold for £5,800


Darby (Henry D'Esterre, 1750-1823). Archive of signal and instruction books from naval service in the French Revolutionary Wars, mainly 1795-1800, comprising:

  1. 'Signals of Vice Admiral Sir James Wallace Kn, 12th August 1795' [cover-title], manuscript on paper, 18 pp., flags added in watercolour to 3 pp., final page inscribed 'Jas. Wallace, To H. D. Darby Esqr, Captain of His Majesty's Ship Adamant, By Command of the Admiral [signed:] J. Hill', stab-stitched in sheet of contemporary printer's waste, manuscript title to front cover, rear cover chipped, 2 annotated slips laid in (one headed 'Additional Signals made by day on board the Adamant' and signed 'H. D. Darby' with flourished underline), folio
  2. 'Instructions for the Conduct of the Ships of War, Explanatory of, and Relative to the Signal-Book' [cover-title], [probably 1795], 40 pp., accomplished, manuscript diagram, laid-in printed title-label 'Instructions for the Ships of War, etc. 1795' with 'Adamant' added in manuscript, original plain paper wrappers, printed title-label to front cover, folio
  3. 'Signal-Book for the Ships of War. 1796' [cover-title]. 83 pp., undated title on p. 1, original half calf, marbled boards, printed title-label to front, 4to
  4. Instructions for the Conduct of the Ships of War, Explanatory of, and relative to the Signals contained in the Signal-Book herewith delivered, [1796], 48 pp., undated title on p. 1, accomplished throughout, pp. 24-5 heavily annotated, p. 45 inscribed 'Given under my hand on board His Majesty's Ship St. Albans at Spithead 9 April 1796, Geo Vandeput, To Henry D'E Darby Esq. Captain of His Majesty's Ship Adamant, By command of the Vice Admiral John Stephen', water-stained, fraying to outer leaves, original marbled boards, spine and portions of paper covering perished, front board held by upper cord, rear board by upper two cords, 4to
  5. 'Instructions for the Conduct of Ships of War. 1796' [cover-title], dated title-page + xii index + 3-64 pp., accomplished throughout, manuscript index tabs along top edge, presentation leaf (p. 64) completed in manuscript and reading 'Given on board His Majesty's Ship the Lively in Gibraltar Bay the 19th Day of November 1795 [read 1796], To Henry D. Darby Esq. Captain of His Majesty's Ship the Bellerophon, By Command of the Admiral [signed:] Geo. Purvis', original half calf, marbled boards, printed title-label to front, folio
  6. Ibid. 48 pp., undated title on p. 1, original half calf, marbled sides, printed title-label to front, 4to
  7. 'Additional instructions. 1796' [cover-title]. 28 pp, undated title on p. 1, original half calf, marbled boards, printed title-label to front, 4to
  8. Appendix to the Signal Book, [no date], undated title-page + 16 pp. + iv pp. index + unpaginated blanks, accomplished in pencil and ink, flags added in watercolour, title-page annotated 'Spencer, Rec[eived] off Ushant the 1st Novr 1800 from Adml Sir Hyde Parker', p. iv of index annotated 'Number of the Desireè [sic] on the List of the Navy, 223' and 'To H. de E. Darby Esq., Captain of His Majesty's Ship Spencer', stitched in original marbled paper wrappers, 4to,
  9. Signal Book for the Ships of War, [no date], title-page + 125 pp. (numerous blanks), typographic flag templates in text, original marbled boards, folio
  10. Signal Book for the Ships of War, [no date], title-page + vii + 60 pp., accomplished throughout, flags added in watercolour to index tabs along fore margins, water-staining, concomitant fraying to lower outer corners of outer leaves, original limp marbled boards, paper lifting or perished through water-damage, folio
  11. Instructions for the Conduct of the Ships of War, [no date], 43 pp., woodcut diagrams in text, original marbled boards, folio
  12. Instructions and Standing Orders for the Central Government and Discipline of the Ships of War, [no date], 15 pp., unbound, folio
  13. [Naval accounts book], 1782, approx. 22 pp. + numerous blanks, allocating proceeds from the capture of the French ships Duc de Chartres and the Trois Amis and the Spanish ship Santa Leocadia by George Darby (c.1720-1790, Henry D'Esterre's uncle), during the Siege of Gibraltar
  14. 'H D Darby's Acts of Parliament' [manuscript cover-title], 6 works in 1 volume, printed by C. Eyre and executors of William Strahan [-George Eyre and Andrew Strahan], 1792-6, stitched in sheet of contemporary printer's waste, folio (2 additional Acts of Parliament laid in, 4to)
  15. [Scrapbook of military and naval crests], mostly trimmed and mounted, bookplate of John Darby of Markly, Sussex, contemporary green half roan, 4to

(Qty: 15)

Significant and extensive collection of rare signal and instruction books used by Henry D'Esterre Darby (1749-1823), captain of HMS Bellerophon at the Battle of the Nile (1798), together with additional material with provenance to Darby, and several further signal books without indication of ownership but all similarly unsophisticated in their original bindings, including one accomplished throughout with flags in watercolour, and evidently used in maritime conditions (item 10).
Darby was captain of HMS Adamant from 1794 to 1796, escorting shipping to West Indies and Mediterranean. He was appointed captain of the Bellerophon during the summer of 1796 and led her in the blockade of Cadiz before the confrontation with Napoleon's forces in the Bay of Abu Qir. The Bellerophon suffered heavy casualties and Darby was himself wounded. John Marshall, in his Royal Naval Biography (1823), declared that 'The undaunted magnanimity with which Captain Darby placed her alongside her mighty antagonist [l'Orient], excited at the moment the highest admiration, and must ever be the theme of eulogium'. In 1801 Darby captained the newly-built Spencer in the Algeciras campaign and returned to England in 1802 with the rank of commodore, with subsequent promotions up to full admiral by 1819, and a knighthood the following year.
All such signal books and their accompanying instructions are highly uncommon, with officers enjoined to ensure their timely destruction 'so that they may not fall into the Hands of the Enemy, by the Capture or Loss of their Ships' (item 3, explanatory instructions, article X). Of the dated items numbers 2 and 4-8 in our listing are untraced in libraries. The National Maritime Museum and the Navy Department Library each has a different set of instructions for 1795 but neither collates with our copy (item 2). A single copy of item 3 is held by the Navy Department Library in Washington, D. C; ESTC (T136497) locates two copies of another set of signals for 1796 with a different collation, containing day and fog signals only, whereas our copy also contains night signals. ESTC (N41002) traces one copy only of a 1798 issue of item 5. Further manuscripts and papers from Darby's career are now found at Cambridge, the British Library, Brown University, and Boston Public Library (USA).

Provenance: acquired by the vendor from Francis Edwards in the 1980s.

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Auction: Military, Aviation & Transport History, 16th May 2019

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Tuesday 14 May 2019 from 9.00am to 6.00pm, Wednesday 15 May 2019 from 9.00am to 6.00pm and on the morning of the sale from 9.00am onward.

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(c) If such arrangements are not made within seven days of the notification the Auctioneer is empowered to sell the lot without reserve by auction or by private treaty and to receive from the seller the normal selling commission and special expenses.

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8. (a) Notwithstanding any other terms of these conditions, if within fourteen days of the sale the Auctioneer has received from the buyer of any lot notice in writing that in his/her view the lot is a deliberate forgery and within fourteen days after such notification the buyer returns the same to the Auctioneer in the same condition as at the time of the sale and satisfies the Auctioneer that considered in the light of the entry in the catalogue the lot is a deliberate forgery then the sale of the lot will be rescinded and the purchase price of the same refunded. "A deliberate forgery" means a lot made with intention to deceive.

(b) A buyer's claim under this condition shall be limited to any amount paid to the Auctioneer for the lot and for the purpose of this condition the buyer shall be the person to whom the original invoice was made out by the Auctioneer.

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14. If, on collation, any named items in the catalogue prove defective, in text or illustration, the buyer may reject the lot provided he/she returns it within fourteen days stating the defect in writing. This however will not apply in the case of unnamed items, periodicals, autograph letters, manuscripts, music, maps, atlases, prints or drawings, nor in respect of damage to bindings, stains, foxing, marginal wormholes or other defects not affecting the completeness of the text, nor in respect of lack of list of plates, inserted advertisements, cancels or subsequently published volumes, supplements, appendices or plates or error in the enumerating of the plates, nor in respect of defects mentioned in the catalogue or announced at the time of sale.

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The amount is calculated as follows:

Royalty For the portion of the Hammer Price (in Euro)

4.00% up to 50,000

3.00% between 50,000.01 and 200,000

1.00% between 200,000.01 and 350,000

0.50% between 350,000.01 and 500,000

0.25% in excess of 500,000

Invoices will be issued in Pounds Sterling. For the purposes of calculating the resale royalty the Pounds Sterling/Euro rate of exchange will be the European Central Bank reference rate on the day of the sale. Please refer to the DACS website for further details.

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Buyer's Premium :

The buyer's premium is 20%, except those lots asterisked (*) in the title for which Value Added Tax (VAT) will be added to the premium, resulting in a buyer's premium of 24% inclusive of VAT. Eligible items include manuscripts, prints, photographs, drawings, framed maps, paintings, pens and other objects which are subject to VAT at a rate of 20% on the buyer's premium as part of the Auctioneers Margin Scheme. VAT zero-rated items such as books, unframed maps and albums are not subject to VAT on the buyer's premium.

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An additional commission of 3% plus VAT (3.6% inclusive of VAT) on the hammer price is payable if you use the live auction bidding facility on the Dominic Winter Auctioneers website ( This charge will be added to your invoice automatically.

An additional commission of 4.95% plus VAT (5.94% inclusive of VAT) on the hammer price is payable if you use the live auction bidding facility on the ATG Media website ( This charge will be added to your invoice automatically.

An additional commission of 3% plus VAT (3.6% inclusive of VAT) on the hammer is payable if you use the live auction bidding facility on the Invaluable website ( This charge will be added to your invoice automatically.

Payment (UK Buyers)

Payment is preferred by direct Bank Transfer to our bank account. Our bank details will be supplied to you with your invoice.

Payment can be made in cash at the Cashier's Office, either during or after the sale. Alternatively, you can pay by cheque (Pounds Sterling only), please allow 5 working days for the cheque to clear before collection of goods.

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UK Shipping

We are not specialist shippers. Some items, such as framed & glazed or fragile goods, will require specialist handling and buyers will be asked to use Mailboxes or RF Shipping Ltd. (details below).

For non-fragile items and items of reasonably small size, we offer an in-house packing and shipping facility for UK buyers. When possible, purchases will be sent by either Royal Mail Special Delivery or DPD overnight service. The charge for this service is variable (£15 minimum per parcel) and will be added to your invoice. Please note shipments to the Highlands and Islands may require shipment by courier and may be more expensive. Please contact us for a quote before bidding.

For larger packages and fragile goods, we recommend Mailboxes, Pack & Send or RF Shipping Ltd who will collect fully paid-for purchases from us twice a week and liaise with the buyer direct. For more information please contact Sarah Ball by telephone on +44 (0)1285 860006 or email These companies will require payment direct for their services.