Coming Home for Christmas: Rare Children’s Books and First Editions in Focus


Wednesday & Thursday 13/14 December 2023 

Our extensive auction of fine antiquarian, modern first editions, illustrated and early children’s books and games held over two days contains both important historical texts as well as 20th century illustrated works, many with important provenance or unique personal inscriptions by their authors.
Following our highly successful sale of the Foyle library in late September, we are pleased on this occasion to include a number of attractive smaller private libraries and collections to our buyers. Amongst these is a further selection of early antique playing cards from the remarkable Ollis collection, the majority manufactured either in England or Europe, including the rare commemorative pack for the coronation of William IV and his wife Adelaide, published by Reynolds & Sons in 1831 (lot 283, £400-600). This set is the first by Reynolds with a decorative back design in gold on a cream background with a design incorporating the letters W and A, representing the new King and Queen. Only one other set of this issue is listed in the relevant literature. Amongst other rare packs of cards on offer is a set of French translucent cards dating from about 1850 with hidden erotic scenes only visible when held up to the light. This ‘racy’ set is estimated at £300-£500 (lot 289).
Early printed books include a handsome copy of the 1529 Greek commentary by Guillaume Budé, issued by the pioneering French printer and grammarian Jodocus Badius Ascensius, one of the most prolific Parisian publishers of the very early 16th century, who specialised in editions of Greek and Roman classical texts. Estimate £700-£1,000 (lot 196). Printed just one year earlier is a scarce copy of the folio commentary on the letters of St. Paul by the 9th century Irish monk and scholar Sedulius Scotus (active 814-869). With only one other auction record located for this work back in 1977, it is estimated at £700-£1,000 (lot 252). A few centuries down the line comes another pioneering work, a presentation copy of Charles Babbage’s Exposition of 1851, issued by John Murray in the same year, inscribed to John Henry Whitmore Jones, a magistrate for the County of Oxford, who inherited the beautiful Cotswolds estate of Chastleton House estate in 1828. The most important section of the work is its thirteenth chapter, which contains Babbage’s account of the design and construction of his Difference Engine, regarded today as the prototype of the modern-day computer (lot 253, estimate £2,000-£3,000).
Day Two includes a huge range of rare early books and games for children, including peep shows and hand-coloured historical and topographical games, among the most important of which is the Mont Blanc peepshow published in 1854 by Myers & Co., containing views of the Alps, here with its original viewing lens and publisher’s box at £1,500-£2,000 (lot 436).
A broad spectrum of classic English illustrated books of the early 20th century is augmented by a similarly wide selection of related original book art, including watercolours by Willy Pogany (lot 479), Honor Appleton (lot 458), Agnes Richardson (lot 482), E. H. Shepard (lot 489) and Lawson Wood (lot 494), and drawings by Kate Greenaway, H. M. Brock, George Cruikshank, Arthur Rackham, William Heath Robinson and Mary Tourtel.
Richard Riall’s important private collection features, not surprisingly as he is the author of A New Bibliography of Arthur Rackham (1994-), an exhaustive collection of books and illustrations of the works of Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), as well as Beatrix Potter figurines by Beswick, and numerous rare first editions of the works of Roald Dahl (for whom Riall had also planned to write a bibliography).
Further private collections include one dedicated to the adventure writer H. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon’s Mines, and the Mappowder Family collection of works by the Powys writing dynasty - principally John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939), and Theodore Francis Powys (1873-1953).
Rounding off the sale are major first editions of the 20th century, including an excellent copy of Conan Doyle’s A Sign of Four, the first issue of 1890 before the corrections to several misprints, in its original publisher’s red cloth (lot 722), estimated at £5,000-£8,000, a pair of signed and inscribed copies of Ian Flemings Dr. No and You Only Live Twice (lot 730, estimate £20,000-£30,000), each of which is individually presented to his neighbour and fellow bridge player in Jamaica Reg Shurey, a beautiful copy of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World (1932) complete with its attractive decorative dust-wrapper (lot 742, estimate £3,000-£5,000), and continuing the theme, George Orwell’s Animal Farm of 1945, again presented in its original dust-wrapper, at an estimate of £2,000-£3,000 (lot 791).
Early modernist writing includes a good range of first editions by Virginia Woolf, and other writers issued by the Hogarth Press, such as Woolf’s fictional biography Orlando, here presented in an excellent (and usually missing) dust-wrapper with an estimate of £1,000 to £1,500, Woolf’s Kew Gardens (1927), a beautiful collaboration with her sister the artist Vanessa Bell (one of a number of works from the collection of the critic and author Allan Clutton-Brock), estimated at £700-£1,000.
Another pioneering illustrated publication of the jazz age is Nancy Cunard’s Negro Anthology of 1934, which introduced for the first time to a wider audience work by black authors such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston as well as contributions on Black culture by American and British authors such as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Samuel Beckett. A large number of the 1000 copies printed are believed to have been destroyed in the London Blitz (lot 708, estimate £2,000-£3,000).