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  • Report from the Salerooms
  • Alex Alec-Smith

2014 saw Byron related material (except for six items, which I will come to later) not doing terribly well at auction. Byron’s works and Byroniana was for sale in Bloomsbury Auctions rooms in Godalming, but, mainly, as part of bigger lots. Examples are as follows: their January sale which included the Morley Collection of Harp Music had among it some Byronic sheet music; Lot 422 in their February sale were the first editions of Sardanapalus and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto the Third with Canto the Fourth (these two volumes were with another – all three were estimated at £60–£80 and sold for £20 hammer price); the thirteen volumes of Letters and Journals appeared in Lot 501 with a large quantity of other material, not all Byron related, which sold for £300 hammer price. The sale on 5 June was notable for including four prints: Currier & Ives, publishers, Byron in the Highlands, based on the oil portrait by George Sanders of Byron on the shore of a loch, with Robert Rushton holding a boat, original hand-coloured lithograph, with a similar portrait of Byron for a song sheet cover and a stipple-engraved portrait of Byron by Ryall after Holmes, plus one other Byron related print. These four were estimated at £200–£300 and did not sell. They later appeared in Bloomsbury’s London rooms in their sale without reserves, where they fetched £10. The Godalming December sale saw Lot 325, five Byron first editions including Manfred and a four volume Works, estimated at £350–£450, which did not sell.

Now for the better-selling material. Staying with Bloomsbury Godalming, their April sale had a nice little clutch of six Byron lots, 249–254. The two most exciting of these were Lot 250, which was a first edition of Hebrew Melodies, lacking the advertisment so the issue was unknown but inscribed ‘With Lord and Lady Byron’s best regards’, seemingly in Annabella Byron’s hand and selling for £950 (having been estimated at £150–£200), and, surpassing this, Lot 252, estimated at £180–£220, which sold for £2,400, and was The Bride of the Isles, A Tale of the Vampire by Lord Byron. Published in Dublin circa 1820, an adaption by James Robinson Planche of the French play by Charles Nodier, it was itself an adaption of Polidori’s Vampyre.

In July, Bloomsbury’s London rooms had a collection of material described as ‘The property of a Lady’ but originally from the library of John Drinkwater as many of the books were his copies of his own work with his bookplate or inscribed to him by other authors. This included Lot 267, a wonderful album entitled by Drinkwater as [End Page 77] ‘Records of My Visit to Greece for the Byron Centenary Celebrations April 1924.’ The Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, suggested that someone should write a poem to commemorate the Byron Centenary in Greece. These celebrations would be attended by Lord Ernle and Sir Rennell Rodd. Drinkwater was prompted by Harold Nicolson to write a poem, and Missolonghi was the result. Drinkwater also attended the ceremonies in Greece at the University of Athens and at Missolonghi. The Album contained the original autograph manuscript of Missolonghi, typed letters signed from Harold Nicolson, three from the Greek Minister in London, eight invitations to receptions in Athens, menu cards, the Official Programme, photographs, commemorative stamps, newspaper extracts etc. It was estimated at £200–£250 and sold for £1,200 to a telephone bidder.

Bloomsbury’s London sale on 17 December had a very rare book. The auctioneer’s notes say that only two copies have come up for sale by auction in the last forty years. Its Byron connection is slightly tenuous but I thought it worth mentioning. The book was Joseph Cartwright’s Selections of the Costumes of Albania and Greece, with explanatory quotations from the Poems of Lord Byron and Gally Knight, including a highly finished portrait of Ali Pasha. First edition 1822 and a presentation copy from the author to J. T. Jolliffe. It is a folio with twelve handcoloured aquatint plates by Robert Havell & Son. Estimated at £25,000–£35...


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