PICKERING, WILLIAM | Substantial collection of upwards of over 530 of the best works published and designed by the celebrated nineteenth-century publisher William Pickering (1796-1854)



Substantial collection of upwards of over 530 of the best works published and designed by the celebrated nineteenth-century publisher William Pickering (1796-1854)

Asking Price: 350,000 GBP

To see the full collection catalogue, please click here.


Image 1:
Set including: DANTE ALIGHIERI. La Divina Commedia, 1822
2 volumes, original magenta cloth, unopened

Image 2:
BACON, FRANCIS. Essays and Wisdom of the Ancients, 1845
Special copy on vellum (one of six copies only), in a grey oasis slipcase by James Brockman

Image 3:
BIBLE, NEW TESTAMENT. Translated into English by John Wycliffe, 1848
One of 500 copies, bind-stamped brown morocco, lettered in gilt on spine and covers, edges gilt, by Riviere for the publisher

Image 4:
BURNET, GILBERT. Lives of Sir Matthew Hale & John, Earl of Rochester, 1820
Pickering’s rare first publication

Image 5:
CHAUCER, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales. Edited by T. Tyrwhitt, 1822
5 volumes, first issue, one of approximately 300 copies, original quarter blue silk, red paper boards

Image 6:
CHAUCER, Geoffrey. Romaunt of the Rose, Troilus and Creseide and the minor poems, 1846
One of two copies on vellum

Image 7:
HOMER. The Iliad and the Odyssey, 1831
2 volumes, one of 12 copies on vellum

Image 8:
DOUCE, FRANCIS. The Dance of Death, 1833
One of 12 copies , inscribed by the publisher

Image 9:
DURER, ALBRECHT. The Passion of Jesus Christ, 1844
One of 6 copies on vellum, original purple velvet with gilt ornaments in special tooled case by Hayday

Image 10:
HERBERT, GEORGE. Works in prose and verse, 1846
Publisher’s ‘extra’ binding of hard-grain purple morocco, ornately decorated in gilt by Hayday, unpublished prototype, one of approximately 4 copies

Image 11:
HOLBEIN, HANS. Icones Veteris Testamenti. Illustrations of the Old Testament engraved on wood. Edited by Thomas Frognall Dibdin, 1830
One of six copies on vellum, olive-green morocco, edges gilt, [by Hayday], slipcase, the Crewe Hall—J.R. Abbey copy

Image 12:
MASKELL, WILLIAM. Letter to the Rev. Dr Pusey on his practice of receiving persons in auricular confession, 1850
ONE COPY ONLY ON VELLUM, AUTHOR’S COPY, signed on title page

Image 13:
SHAKESPEARE, William. Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, c.1826
On India Paper, olive green morocco gilt, one of approximately 10 copies, no other copy located

Image 14:
SHAW, HENRY. Alphabets, Numerals and Devices of the Middle Ages, 1845
Large paper copy, half purple morocco lettered in gilt, one of 100 copies

Image 15:
STOTHARD, THOMAS. The Alphabet Engraved on Wood, 1830,
Original red silk, one of 100 copies, presentation copy from Samuel Rogers


We are pleased to offer for sale the remarkable collection of works published by the ground-breaking publisher William Pickering (1796--1854) lovingly assembled over his lifetime by the bibliophile John Porter of Bath.

Pickering was the first to introduce cloth bindings into trade publishing, leading to the wide availability of books (whether long established classics, neglected works, or new writing by Coleridge and others) to the public at reasonable prices. Perhaps his greatest achievement however was his attention to elegant craftsmanship and design, reviving the Caslon type and the use of woodcut ornaments, leading to a lasting influence on the practice of printing and publishing.

The collection contains upwards of over 530 of the best works published and designed by Pickering (surely one of the most comprehensive, if not the most comprehensive in private hands), including long runs of some of his most celebrated series (e.g. the Aldine Poets, the Diamond Classics, the Books of Common Prayer, the art works of Henry Shaw), as well as many rarities (his first publication of 1820, the 1820 Horace in red paper boards, the 1822 Canterbury Tales in quarter blue silk, the 1822 Shakespeare Pericles, the 1826 Shakespeare on India Paper [no other copy recorded], the 1831 Homer on vellum [the Holford--J.R. Abbey copy], the 1846 unpublished prototype of Herbert's Works, the 1832-36 Complete Angler with India paper proofs, and many others, including several which are the only known copies. The collection is enhanced by numerous rare or unique copies on vellum (including some of Pickering's own copies), stellar presentation and association copies (e.g. Samuel Rogers's copy of Stothard's Alphabet in the original silk boards), and editions with distinguished provenance.

James Brown of Boston rightfully wrote in 1845 that "Mr. Pickering...has done more for the advancement of the printing art, and the dissemination of the best class of English Literature, than any other man alive...". 2020 is the bi-centenary of the first William Pickering publication and it would no doubt be impossible ever to assemble a quality collection of this focus from scratch again. Please see the link above for the detailed catalogue of the library.

John Porter's introduction explains the evolution of the collection, which began in 1946 in Cecil Court and has continued to this day. Aside from the devoted scouring of the traditional outlets of London and provincial booksellers and auction houses the core of the collection has been formed by the acquisition of four previous Pickering libraries: those formed by H.S. Linfield in the 1950s (formerly secretary of the AA), the collector Philip Sperling of New York (acquired in the 1990s), the collector Roy Porter, and the American auctioneer and collector Richard Oinonen.

The collection forms the core of the definitive bibliography of the works of William Pickering produced by John Porter over the past 40 years, comprising nearly 2000 items. The bibliography is ready for publication and is available under separate negotiation.

For all enquiries, please contact: peter.selley@sothebys.com

Upcoming Auction
English Literature, History, Science, Children’s Books and Illustrations
Bidding Opens 1 December 2020 • 14:00 GMT • London

Currently Available for Private Sale

Load More