2023 has proved to be a remarkable year in the annals of Dominic Winter Auctioneers, the highlight of which was the spectacular first portion of the Foyle Library sale (27th September). It was a privilege and a delight for our expert staff to handle such a remarkable variety of treasures, ranging from medieval Books of Hours to an original illustration by the Winnie-the-Pooh illustrator E. H. Shepard.
A fine French Book of Hours (Use of Rouen) dating from 1480 comprising 160 leaves, all of which were decorated with borders in illuminated colours, as well as twelve full-page illuminated miniatures, and twenty-four smaller miniature illustrations, the latter chiefly illustrating the calendar placed at the front of the whole text, achieved a premium–inclusive total of £40,800. A fine letter signed by Mary I sold for £26,400: written on the eve of the fall of Calais in 1558, she calls for re-enforcements to be raised immediately to assist the last English possession in France, though her plea sadly came too late. A fine associative oil portrait of one of the Foyle family's ancestors, Reverend Edward Foyle (1736-1784), by the eminent British portrait painter Arthur Devis (1712-1787) sailed easily past its estimate (£3,000-£5,000), fetching £23,300. The sale concluded with a beautiful original pen and ink illustration by E. H. Shepard depicting Pooh and Piglet walking hand-in-hand into the sunset (discovered in a cellar drawer at Beeleigh Abbey wrapped in a tea towel) brought £32,400.
Earlier in the year we were delighted to achieve a world record price for one of only twenty deluxe vellum copies of A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, this one warmly inscribed to his neighbour Priscilla Lutyens while he lived at Cotchford Farm in Sussex (£25,200). Amongst early English texts was a remarkable and unique collection of seven works by the playwright, satirist, and contemporary of Shakespeare, Thomas Nashe (1567-1601). Nashe’s controversial works were suppressed in his own lifetime at the order of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several of the titles included in this volume were unrecorded at auction, contributing to a price of £76,800.
Our calendar year finished with our traditional Christmas offering of modern and children’s books, including £7,800 hammer for a Mont Blanc peepshow. Written by the popular journalist Albert Smith, this rare peepshow in its original box was part of an extensive merchandising campaign for Smith’s sensational show at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly. Running for 2000 performances, it helped to popularise mountain climbing in Victorian Britain.
A signed example of an otherwise unremarkable edition of Lord of the Rings made £8,160. Given to the consignor while he worked for a London bookshop, this copy was part of a promotional offer by the publishers, whereby a signed copy was included in bookshop orders over a certain minimum number.
Hitherto unknown signed or inscribed by the artist, a presentation copy of High Street inscribed by Eric Ravilious and his wife Tirzah to fellow British artist Thomas Hennell made a record £6,240. This was a particularly poignant association copy: when, in 1942, Ravilious died in active service as a war artist in Iceland (the first British war artist to do so), it was Hennell who replaced him in the role.
On the subject of previously unknown presentation copies, first editions of cult Anglo-Swedish author Eric Stanislaus Stenbock’s works are exceedingly scarce at auction in any form. The Shadow of Death (1893) broke new ground on two fronts, being both the first appearance of the work at auction and the first extant example of a work inscribed by the author himself. It made £7,440.
For collectors of modern first editions, pre-war dust jackets are always sought-after. Often discarded at the point of use, they were seen as a tool to protect the books underneath while on the shelves in the bookshops. It is interesting therefore that the dust jackets of Brave New World (1932) are more commonly encountered than many of its contemporaries. It has been asserted, not without basis, that they were retained at a higher rate because of the iconic, striking design by Leslie Holland. Nevertheless, the jacket is often encountered in poor condition. A fine copy in dust jacket, certainly the finest to sell in these rooms, made £7,800.