Medieval and Illuminated Manuscripts
The sale includes medieval manuscripts of a variety of dates, nationalities, texts, and values, from an inexpensive group of unilluminated single leaves (Lot 1), to a fine illuminated Book of Hours given by a pope to a cardinal in the seventeenth century (Lot 17). Another Book of Hours is unusual for its texts written not in Latin, as is normal, but "in Vlaemsche", in Flemish (Lot 18), while an English Breviary (Lot 14) represents a type of book that would have existed in their thousands in the Middle Ages, but most of which were destroyed or discarded as a result of the Reformation in England (see also the printed Sarum Missal of 1527, Lot 275).
The auction includes a wealth of material of the Elizabethan period, including a group of nine presentation manuscripts that were given to the Queen as New Year’s gifts. Bound in crimson velvet, each manuscript contains a series of illuminated coats of arms of historic figures. Also included in the sale is a manuscript owned and annotated by Sir Walter Ralegh when imprisoned in the Tower of London, attempting to regain royal favour and planning his final voyage to the New World. There is an exceptionally rare document signed by the great poet Sir Philip Sidney, as well as documents signed by the Queen herself and her father King Henry VIII, a book from the library of Lord Burghley.
Early Printed Books
Early printing is represented by an unsophisticated copy of the Aldine Aristophanes with Istrian provenance (Lot 93), an uncommon Giunta breviary (Lot 122), a Sarum Missal from 1527 (Lot 275), Etterlin’s history of Switzerland (Lot 193), a copy of Breydenbach’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land in German translation (Lot 124), Machiavelli’s Discorsi and Arte della Guerra (Lot 259), a partial copy of Wynkyn de Worde’s Chronicles of England (Lot 144) and several early Chaucer editions of 1561 (Lot 140), 1598 (Lot 141, owned by Lady Theophila Coke) and 1721 (Lot 142).
The fine bindings found throughout the sale include a sombre morocco binding on a copy of Eikon Basilike (Lot 138), a silver binding on an eighteenth-century finely-printed Viennese devotional text (Lot 255), a sixteenth-century panel-stamped binding from Ansbach (Lot 321), and a calf binding for Jacques-Auguste de Thou (Lot 88).
Bibles and Devotional Texts
The sale includes a collection of Bibles in various languages, from Tyndale’s New Testament (Lot 108) and the King James Bible (Lot 109) to Philip Traherne’s copy of a Greek Old Testament (Lot 113), the Bible in Welsh (Lot 116; see Lot 120 for a Welsh Book of Common Prayer) and a miniature Sedan New Testament in French (Lot 112). Devotional works of a more personal nature include a printed and manuscript miniature Sammelband belonging to the nun Johanna von Hochsteden (died 1600) containing otherwise unrecorded sixteenth-century Cologne imprints (Lot 308), and a manuscript volume dated 1574 in a charming embroidered binding made for a member of the Winkler family of Zurich (Lot 337). There is also a Russian Old Believers manuscript from the early nineteenth century containing a history of the Solovetsky Martyrs (Lot 288).
Original Illustrations and Artwork
Twentieth-century art is represented by a collection of Matisse items inscribed to Monette Vincent (Lot 267), Basquiat (Lot 98), John Lennon (Lot 252) and Kees van Dongen (Lot 184), as well as original book illustrations by Edmund Dulac (Lot 185), Kay Nielsen (Lot 284), Arthur Rackham (Lot 297), and E.H. Shepard (Lot 312, Lot 313). The sale also includes six watercolours by Nelly Toll (Lot 330), painted whilst in hiding from the Nazis, and earlier material including a signed copy of Constable’s series of plates of the English landscape (Lot 164) and John Nixon’s twelve watercolour illustrations for Tristram Shandy (Lot 285).
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
This significant group from the collection of Frieda Hughes tells the story of the literary lives of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Plath’s childhood stamp collection (Lot 375) includes original letters preserving some of her very earliest correspondence, whilst a boyhood hunting diary (Lot 358) shows Hughes alive to the symbolic potential of the natural world at an early stage. Hughes’ own copy of “St Botolph’s Review” (Lot 360) marks the beginning of the relationship between Hughes and Plath, whilst copies of Plath’s The Colossus (Lot 377) and Hughes’ The Earth-Owl and other moon-people (Lot 362) inscribed to immediate family members tie together the literary with the biographical. A mirror previously belonging to Sylvia Plath (Lot 376) reflects a recurrent and significant symbol in her writings. A series of unpublished autograph manuscript poems by Hughes (Lot 367), written in the wake of the tragic deaths of Assia and Shura Wevill, are powerfully direct expressions of the poet’s grief. Material from the Rainbow Press (Lot 353, Lot 369) and the Morrigu Press (Lot 371) showcases the richness of longstanding creative collaborations between Ted and Olwyn Hughes and artists including Leonard Baskin.