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  • Report from the Salerooms
  • Alex Alec-Smith

In West Sussex, Toovey's sale on the 4 October 2016 started with 43 lots of a Byron library of an unnamed collector. Many of the books had previously been in the collection of Alex Bridge and retained his bookplate. On the whole prices were low. A first edition of The Deformed Transformed sold for £100; Hours of Idleness 1822 £20; Fugitive Pieces, the 1886 limited edition £30. Contemporary biography fared little better, and more recent material was even cheaper. What did sell well were bindings—The Works of Lord Byron 1832-1833 in seventeen volumes went for £300; another seventeen-volume set sold for £130 and a ten-volume set of 1873 for £140. Continuing in this vein was Lot 3018—The Works of Lord Byron (London: John Murray, 1823), vols. I–II only (of 4). Extra-illustrated with 287 engraved, aquatint, lithographed, etched, hand-coloured and watercolour plates, the binding was near contemporary morocco, by Christie, with covers of scrolling tendrils elaborately tooled in gilt, spines gilt in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second and third, the others with repeat foliate decoration in gilt, gilt turn-ins of acorn and thistle motifs, moiré silk endpapers. This fetched £320. Likewise, Lot 3020, Moore's The Life of Lord Byron, with his Letters and Journals, a new edition, complete in one volume (London: John Murray, 1847), contemporary morocco, covers elaborately tooled in gilt, spine in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second, the others with repeat decoration in gilt, gilt turn-ins, with a matching bound volume of The Works (1845), sold for £300. The best lot was Lot 3036, a first edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. A Romaunt (1812). This fetched £800. All these prices are less the Buyer's Premium of 24.5%.

Sotheby's 'The Library of an English Bibliophile Part VI', on 20 October 2016 had four Byron items, lots 22-25. All volumes were first editions and in the case of Hebrew Melodies and Werner first issues, all were in their original boards with blue cloth box or blue cloth wrapper and slipcase. Lara, A Tale. Jacqueline, A Tale, estimated £400–£700 sold for £2,500; Hebrew Melodies, estimated £1,500–£2,000, sold for £3,500; Siege of Corinth, A Poem. Parisina, A Poem, estimated at £400–£600, sold for £500 and finally Werner, A Tragedy, estimated at £400–£600, sold for £1,063. These prices include the Buyer's Premium of 25%.

Moving on to 2017 and staying with Sotheby's, their 'English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustration' sale on 11 July also had four Byron lots: 87 to 90. 87 [End Page 183] was an Autographed Letter signed to Charles Robert Cockerell of 27 December 1810. The letter is in Marchand (Supplementary Vol., p. 9). It fetched £2,750. Lot 88 was an Autograph manuscript fragment from English Bards and Scotch Reviewers selling for £2,000; Lot 89 was Waltz: An Apostrophic Hymn, estimated at £3,500–£6,500, which sold for £4,000. This is an improvement of copies for sale in 2015 and 2016, which, with higher estimates did not sell. The star Byronic lot was 90—Don Juan, 6 volumes, all first editions in original boards with a new edition of Cantos I and II and also the fifth edition of Cantos III, IV, & V, again in original boards. These eight volumes were preserved in five matching quarter morocco fleece lined boxes. Estimated at £8,000–£12,000, they sold for £23,750.

My thanks to Jack Wasserman for alerting me to Bonham's sale in New York on 7 June 2017. There were two items—Lot 206 which was an Autograph Document Signed Byron being a payment receipt for £50 to John Hanson with Autograph Document Signed C.G. Byron, Southwell, 11 April 1807, being a payment order to John Hanson. This sold for $1,875 including Buyer's Premium of 25%. This converts into sterling at £1,462. What got Jack excited was Lot 80. I quote the auctioneer's description:

Sangorski & Sutcliffe: Jewelled Binding Byron, Lord [George Gordon]. An illuminated...


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