Autographs & Ephemera


Autographs, historical documents, manuscripts and ephemera have always been an integral part of the Dominic Winter book auction experience. Not all book collecting is about first editions, but it is a constant motif as collectors try to get closer to the source of a given author's inspiration. What then could be more thrilling than having an autographed association copy or a letter or manuscript from the author themselves? This area of the market has evolved rapidly in the last twenty years as collectors seek out the unique ephemeral items that will set their collections apart. An ordinary first edition of Oscar Wilde's Salome (1893) could be bought for £1,000 at auction while a copy we offered, signed and inscribed from Wilde to the French Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, sold for £40,000.

Highlight autograph items from recent years include letters from vaccination pioneer Edward Jenner (£17,000), mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell on induced magnetization (£14,000), a C.S. Lewis letter on his series of Narnia books (£11,000), plus autograph poetry manuscripts of Red Cotton Night-Cap or Turf and Towers by Robert Browning (£12,000), The White Ship by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (£8,000), and the autograph music score of Offertorium, "O Hearken Thou", by Edward Elgar (£8,000).

Scrap albums and cookery receipt books of varying values are to be regularly found in our book auctions. Manuscript journals, diaries and archives of letters are frequently offered too and are always worth evaluating; the writer's status, the originality and quality of the writing, the geographical, historical and social context, are all factors that help determine the potential interest and auction value of these primary source materials. We have had great successes with journals and archives of letters recording commonplace British and Grand Tour travels and the more pioneering expeditions to little-known places, maritime and convict ship log books, and the sometimes tough accounts of the hardships of war or rural poverty.

While many historical documents are of a legal nature and of limited appeal, a monarch's signature, a royal portrait or a fine wax Royal Seal will add value and appeal. In recent times we have had a near-contemporary copy of the will of King Henry VIII, circa 1570 (£8,000) and a letter written and signed on behalf of Lorenzo de' Medici by his secretary Niccolo Michelozzi in 1476 (£5,000), as well as fine Books of Hours, Islamic and Oriental documents and manuscripts.

Of the many quirky historical artefacts we have sold three of the most memorable have been one of Napoleon's teeth (£12,500), a Madame Tussaud waxwork of Sir Winston Churchill (£19,000), and a piece of red damask fabric from the bridal bed curtain of Lord Byron (£1,900).

We also value and sell a vast array of printed ephemera in all its manifestations, most notably postcards, broadsides, programmes, greetings cards, menus and tickets. Highlights include a collection of Gillingham Football Club programmes (£10,000) and an astonishing £250,000 for 600 lots of railway tickets offered over the course of five sales.


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Chris Albury

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