Book Prices - Auction Sales In The Nineteenth Century
( Originally Published 1898 )
THE sales of the nineteenth century are so numerous, that they must be treated in a more summary manner than those of the two previous centuries. The Roxburghe sale in 1812 marks an era in bibliography, and after it a series of valuable sales occurred until about the middle of the century, when there was a certain period of dulness, although great sales like those of the Iibraries of the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Buckingham (Stowe) took place. In 1864 the fine library of George Daniel was dispersed, when many editions of Shakespeare's plays, and much valuable dramatic Iiterature, were sold at high prices. In 1873 was the great sale of Henry Perkins's library, in 1881-83 the Sunderland sale, and in 1882-84 the Beckford and Hamilton sales. These three sales deserve an historian, such as the Roxburghe sale had in Dibdin ; but although they created a great sensation, they have not been written about as the Roxburghe sale was. The effect of the high prices realised at these sales has been to cause a great number of fine libraries to be brought to the hammer. The century opened with the sale by Mr. King of the valuable library of George Steevens, the Shakespearian commentator, which commenced on 13th May i800, and continued during the ten following days. There were 1943 lots, which realised £2740. Useful lists of some of the most interesting books in the sale are given in Dibdin's Bibliomania and Clarke's Repertorium¬ Bibliographicum. The whole of the library was sold, with the exception of an illustrated copy of Shakespeare, bequeathed to Earl Spencer, the corrected copy of Steevens's edition of Shakespeare to Mr. Reed, and a fine set of Hogarth's prints, in three volumes, to the Right Hon. William Windham.
The sale of the library of Greffier Fagel of the Hague was announced for sale in 1802, but instead of coming to auction it was sold entire to Trinity College, Dublin, for £7000. A catalogue, digested by Samuel Paterson, in two parts, was printed in 1806.
The very valuable library of Robert Heathcote was sold by Leigh, Sotheby & Son in 1802 and 1808. The first sale, on 8th April 1802 and five following days, was described as "an elegant collection of books, comprising a very extraordinary assemblage of the Greek and Roman classics, and other books in the English, French, and Italian languages ; the greater part upon large paper, and the whole in fine condition, in morocco and other splendid bindings." The number of lots was 958, which realised £3361.
The second part was described as "a portion of the singularly elegant library, late the property of a very distinguished amateur [R. H.], likewise a few duplicates belonging to the present possessor [John Dent]. . . . The books are almost universally bound in different coloured morocco, by Roger Payne and other eminent binders." This sale took place on 4th April 1808 and five following days, and consisted of 858 lots, which fetched £2469.
The third sale took place on 2nd May 1808 and following day, when 222 lots Were sold for £I246. The books are described as bound by "the most eminent English and French binders." The totals of the three sales were 2038 lots, which realised £7076.
The sale of the library of John Woodhouse, which was carried out by Leigh, Sotheby & Son, on 12th December 1803 and four following days, was one of great interest. The books were in fine condition, and besides works on English history, topography, &c., there was a good collection of old English poetry and romances. There were 862 lots, and the amount realised was £3135.
James Edwards, who commenced hookselling in Pall Mall about the year 1784, was in 1788 the joint purchaser with James Robson, bookseller, of New Bond Street, of the Pinelli library. He retired to the Manor House, Harrow, some years before his death, and gathered around him a very choice collection of books. He is mentioned in the index to Nichols's " Literary Anecdotes" (1813) as the possessor, "with numberless other literary treasures," of the famous Bedford Missal_ On 25th April 18o4 and three following days Mr. Christie sold a selection from his library, which was described as "a most splendid and valuable collection of books, superb missals, original drawings, &c., the genuine 'property of a gentleman of distinguished taste, re-tiring into the country." There were only 339 lots, which fetched L4640; or nearly L14 per lot, a very considerable average, but then the books were highly distinguished. Dibdin gives, in part 5 of his Bibliomania, a list of some of the more important items, and in part 6 a notice of the large number of books printed on vellum, in the collection. Dibdin does not, however, mention that it belonged to James Edwards.
On 5th April 1815 and fire following days Mr. Evans sold "the valuable library of James Edwards, Esq., containing a splendid assemblage of early printed books, chiefly on vellum, highly curious and important manuscripts, magnificent books of prints," &c. In this sale was the Bedford Missal, which was bought by the Marquis of Blandford for 1687. There were 83o lots, which sold for L8421, or rather more than £10 per lot. Edwards died on 2nd January 1816, aged fifty-nine years.
The library of the first Marquis of Lansdowne (previously Earl of Shelburne) was sold by Leigh & Sotheby in January and February 1806. The sale occupied thirty-one clays, and contained .653o lots, which realised L6701. Amongst the books was a very rare collection of tracts, documents, and pamphlets relating to the French Revolution, in more than 28o volumes, which sold for 1168. In 1807 the Marquis's collection of manuscripts were catalogued for sale, but they never came to auction, as they were purchased by Parliament for the British Museum for £6000.
The Rev. Jonathan Boucher (1738–1804) possessed a large library, which \vas sold by Leigh & Sotheby in three parts for a total of £4510. Part 1, 24th February 1806 and twenty-six following days, 6646 lots sold for £2990. Part 2, 14th April 1806 and eight following days, 1940 lots sold for £815. Part 3, 29th May 1809 and three following clays, 857 lots sold for £704. The library was full of valuable and useful books in divinity, history, voyages and travels, poetry, classics, &c., but there were few books of extreme rarity. Dibdin says in his Bibliomania
"I attended many days during this sale, but such was the warm fire, directed especially towards divinity, kept up during nearly the whole of it, that it required a heavier weight of metal than I was able to bring into the field of battle to ensure any success in the contest."
The extensive library of the Rev. John Brand was sold by Mr. Stewart in two parts. Part r, in May and June 1807, 8611 lots and MSS. 294 lots, in thirty-seven days, sold for £4300. Part 2, February 1808, 4064 lots sold for £1851. The last lot in the first part of the sale was Brand's own work on " Popular Antiquities," with additions prepared for republication, which, with copyright, sold for £630. The books were in poor condition, and had been mostly bought for small sums ; in addition, no money was expended by the proprietor on the binding of his books.
On the twenty-fourth clay's sale Dr. Gosset found in one of the volumes of Menage's French Dictionary sixty-five pounds in bank-notes, and a rare portrait of Margaret Smith, engraved by W. Mar-shall, which was subsequently sold for twenty-seven guineas. Previous to the removal of the library from Somerset House, where Brand lived as secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, Stewart, the auctioneer, found by accident in an old waste-paper volume seventy guineas wrapped up in paper and placed in various parts of the book. The money was handed to Mr. Brand's executor.
Isaac Reed's interesting library of old English literature was sold by King & Lochée in November and December 1807. The sale occupied thirty-nine days, and consisted of 8957 lots, which realised £4386.
A five days' sale of Lord Penrhyn's library at Leigh & Sotheby's in March 1809 brought 2000.
In June 1809 Leigh & Sotheby sold the library of Richard Porson, which consisted of 1931 lots, and realised f1254. A list of the prices given for the principal classics in this sale is printed in the Classical Journal (i. 385-90).
The eminent antiquary Richard Gough bequeathed his collection of British topography to the Bodleian Library, but the rest of his library was sold by Leigh & Sotheby in April 1810 during twenty days. There were 4373 lots, which sold for £3552.
The Rev. Benjamin Heath, D.D., sold his very fine library during his lifetime to Joseph Johnson, bookseller, of St. Paul's Churchyard, who consigned it to Mr. Jeffery in 1810 to be sold by auction. The sale consisted of 4786 lots, and realised £8899. Dibdin describes this sale in enthusiastic terms in his Bibliomania a. He writes,
" Never did the bibliomaniac's eye alight upon 'sweeter copies,' as the phrase is, and never did the bibliomaniacal barometer rise higher than at this sale ! The most marked phrensy characterised it. A copy of the editio princeps of Homer (by no means a first-rate one) brought £92, and all the Aldine classics produced such an electricity of sensation, that buyers stuck at nothing to embrace them ! Do not let it hence be said that black letter lore is the only fashionable pursuit of the present age of book collectors. This sale may be hailed as the omen of better and brighter prospects in literature in general ; and many a useful philological work, although printed in the Latin or Italian language and which had been sleeping unmolested upon a bookseller's shelf these dozen years — will now start up from its slumber, and walk abroad in a new atmosphere, and be noticed and ' made much of."
We now arrive at the year 1812, which will ever be memorable in bibliographical annals on account of the sale of the grand library of the Duke of Roxhurghe during forty-six days. The catalogue was arranged by Messrs. G. & W. Nicol, and in the preface we read,
"When literature was deprived of one of its warmest admirers by the death of the Duke of Roxburghe, his grace was in full pursuit of collecting our dramatic authors. But when his collection of English plays is examined, and the reader is informed that he had only turned his mind to this class of literature for a few years, his indefatigable industry will be readily admitted."
Mr. Robert H. Evans, the bookseller of Pall Mall, was induced to commence the business of auctioneer with his sale, and he continued to sell by auction for over thirty years.
The Roxburghe library consisted of 10,120 lots, which sold for 23,397. Although one of the finest libraries ever brought to the hammer, the glory of the majority of the books was eclipsed by the Valdarfer Boccaccio, 1471, which fetched 226o, the largest sum ever paid for a book up to that time. It has been said that the amount of the Boccaccio day's sale equalled what had been given by the Duke for the entire coIlection.
Leigh & Sotheby sold in May 1812 the library of the Marquis Townshend, during sixteen clays, for £5745.
The splendid library of Colonel Stanley was sold by Evans in April and May 1813, during eight days. There were 1136 lots (or above 3000 volumes), which sold for L8236. A unique copy of De Bry's Voyages, with duplicates of parts x. and xi. and a large number of duplicate plates, bound in blue morocco, sold for 1546. Brunet wrote that at this sale the thermometer of the bibliomania reached its highest point.
The library of Stanesby Alchorne, of the Mint, was bought entire by Earl Spencer, who sold at Evans's, in 1813, the portion which he did not require, and added to the sale some of his own duplicates. There were only 187 lots in this sale, and they sold for £1769.
Leigh & Sotheby sold the library of the Rev. Isaac Gosset, a constant attendant on book-sales, in 1813 (the year after his death), during twenty-three days. There were 5740 lots, which sold for £3141. Gosset (the Lepidus of Dibdin) was much attached to Richard Heber, whom he regarded as his pupil.
In this same year (1813) the famous Merly library (Ralph Willett) was sold by Leigh & Sotheby. There were seventeen days, and 2906 lots, which sold for £13,508. It was said at the time that if ever there was a unique collection this was one.
A choice and small library of a well-known col-lector (John Hunter) was sold in this same year by Leigh & Sotheby, in a three clays' sale, with 405 lots, which realised £1311.
Messrs. King & Lochee sold the library of John Horne Tooke, 1813. There were four days, and 1813 lots, which fetched £1250.
In 1814 and 1815 the library of John Towneley was sold by Evans. Part 1 in June 1814, seven days, 904 lots, amount of sale £589o. Part June; 1815, ten clays, 1703 lots, amount of sale £2707, or a total for the two parts of £8597. The Towneley Mysteries sold for £147. A small remaining portion of the Towneley library was sold by Evans in 1817.
Mr. Towneley's collection of drawings, prints, books of prints, &c., was sold by Mr. King in 1816 for £1414, and a collection of the works of HoIlar, also by Mr. King, in May 1818 for £2108.
In 1816 there were several fine sales. Evans sold Edward Astle's library, which occupied two days' sale, and consisted of 265 lots, realising 12366 ; Dr. Vincent's, Dean of Westminster, library, in six days' sale, 1176 lots, which sold for £1390 ; and the library of Marshal Junot, which consisted chiefly of books printed on vellum the 139 lots sold for £1397; but this fact by itself is misleading, insomuch that the books of more than half that value were bought in, viz., £779, making those sold amount only to 1618.
Messrs. Leigh & Sotheby sold in 1816 the library of Prince Talleyrand, which was described as Bibliotheca splendissima. There were eighteen days' sale, and the amount realised was £8399.
In this same year (1816) Mr. J. G. Cochrane sold the Gordonstoun library of Sir Robert Gordon. It contained 242I lots, occupying twelve days in the selling, and realising L1539. This sale is specially alluded to by Mr. Hill Burton in his "Book-Hunter" as a remarkable exception to the rule that great book-sales seldom " embrace ancestral libraries accumulated in old houses from generation to generation." This library " was begun by Sir Robert Gordon, a Morayshire laird of the time of the great civil wars of the seventeenth century. He was the author of the ` History of the Earldom of Sutherland,' and a man of great political as well as literary account. He laid by heaps of the pamphlets, placards, and other documents of his stormy period, and thus many a valuable morsel, which had otherwise disappeared from the world, left a representative in the Gordonstoun collection. It was increased by a later Sir Robert, who had the reputation of being a wizard. He belonged to one of those terrible clubs from which Satan is entitled to take a victim annually ; but when Gordon's turn came, he managed to get off with merely the loss of his, shadow."
William Roscoe's fine library was also sold in 1816 by Winstanley of Liverpool. There were 1918 lots, and fourteen days' sale, the amount realised being L5150.
It is worthy of mention that in 1817 Evans sold the library of Count Borromeo of Padua, and that the books were very fully described in the catalogue. In one instance a book which only sold for half-a-crown was described in fourteen lines. The catalogue of 324 lots occupied seventy-seven octavo pages. The total proceeds of the sale were £726.
The cataloguing of the time was not affected by this example, and it was many years before full descriptions were given in sale catalogues. M. Libri's annotated catalogues of 1859-62 set the new fashion.
The book sales from this date become so very numerous, that it is impossible in the space at our disposal to register more than a few of the most important, and these must be recorded quite succinctly.
The sale of Edmond Malone's library at Sotheby's in 1818 occupied eight days, and brought L1649. The great sale by Evans of James Bindley's library, which was particularly rich in early English literature, was spread over several years. Part 1, December 1818, twelve days, 2250 lots, amount of sale £3046. Part 2, January 1819, twelve days, 2588 lots, amount realised £4631. Part 3, February 1819, eleven days, 2321 lots [amount not given in Evans's sale catalogues in the British Museum.] Part 4, August 1820, books, six days, 1132 lots, amount £2253. [Part 51 omissions, January 1821, five days, 1092 lots [no totals given].
Bindley's portraits, prints and drawings, and medals were sold by Sotheby in 1819. Part 1, Bindley Granger. Part 2, portraits. Part 3, prints and drawings. [Part 4], medals. These realised £7692.
John North's library was sold in 1819 by Evans in three parts. Part 1, nine days, 1497 lots, £4285. Part 2, twelve days, 2175 lots, £5679. Part 3, four days, 842 lots, £2842. Total, £12,806.
Evans sold George Watson Taylor's library in 1823. Part 1, six days, 965 lots, £3850. Part eight days, 1207 lots, £4926.
The great Fonthill Abbey sale (Beckford's collection) occurred in 1823. The sale occupied thirty-seven days, of which twenty were taken up with the disposal of the library of 20,000 volumes. The auctioneer was Mr. Phillips of New Bond Street, and the place of sale was the Abbey.
George Nassau's library was sold by Evans in 1824. Part I, twelve clays, 2603 lots, £4894. Part 2, eight days, 1661 lots, £3611.
A still finer library than this was sold in the same year by Evans, that of Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, Bart. Part 1, eleven days, 1676 lots, £9505. Part 2, six days, 825 lots, 14580. Part 3, eight days, 1190 lots, £4644, making a total of 3691 lots, which realised £18,729.
Almost a rival to this was the sale by Evans in 1827 of the library of John Dent, F.R.S. Part 1, nine days, 1502 lots, £6278. Part 2, nine days, 1474 lots, £8762. Totals, 2976 lots, and £15,040.
In 1827 the library of the Duke of York was sold at Sotheby's for £5718.
The Earl of Guilford's library was sold by Evans in seven parts in the years 1828, 1829, 1830, and 1835. There were forty days and 8511 lots, and the total amount realised was £12,175. These totals were made up as follows : - -Part 1 (1828), nine days, 1788 lots, £1665. Part 2 (1829), Six days, 1459 lots, 11757. Part 3 (1829), three days, 740 lots, £880. Manuscript (183o), five days, 679 lots, £4441. Library from Corfu : Part 1 (1830), five days, 1124 lots, £998. Part 2 (1831), four clays, 722 lots, £678. Remaining portion (1835), eight days, 1999 lots, £1756.
The great sale of George Hibbert's library by Evans was commenced in 1829, forty-two clays' sale, 8794 lots, £6816.
Evans sold in 1831 the small but fine library of the Duchesse de Berri, who is described on the catalogue as an " Illustrious Foreign Personage." There were five days, and 846 lots, which realised £5160.
In 1832 Evans sold the library of Philip Hurd for 5545. There were 1464 lots, which occupied eight days in selling.
In this same year the choicer portion of John Broadley's library was sold, also by Evans. There were 589 lots in three clays' sale, which realised £2052. The second portion was sold during six days in 1833, 1225 lots, which realised L3707.
Joseph Haslewood's library was sold by Evans in 1833. This was an eight clays' sale, consisting of 1855 lots, which realised £2471. The amount was probably more than the late proprietor expected, as he said he would refuse a thousand pound cheque in exchange for his hooks. Dibdin remarks in his " Reminiscences " on the fact that Haslewood always intended that his books should he sold by Sotheby. He was in the habit of saying, "What will Sam Sotheby make of this or that after I am gone ? "
In 1833 and 1834 the library of P. A. Hanrott was sold by Evans in five parts, and during forty- seven days, for £22,409. There were 10,826 lots.
These totals are obtained as follows :—Part 1 (1833), twelve days, 2504 lots, £7487. Part 2 (1833), twelve days, 2574 lots, £5161. Part 3 (1834), twelve days, 2753 lots, £5727. Part 4 (1834), Six days, 1489 lots, £2845. Part 5 (1834), five days, 1506 lots, £1189.
The great sale of the library of Richard Heber took place during the years 1834, 1835, and 1836. Mr. H. Foss has written the following totals for the twelve parts in a copy of the catalogue in the British Museum. Two hundred and two days of sale, 52,676 lots, 119,613 volumes, which sold for £56,774. The proportionate total cost to Mr. Heber of the library is put at £77,750. The following are the particulars of the various parts :—Part r, April and May 1834, sold by Sotheby & Sou, twenty-six days, 7486 lots, £5615. Part 2, June and July (Sotheby), twenty-five days, 6590 lots, £5958. Part 3, November (Sotheby), seventeen days, 5055 lots, £21 r6. Part 4, December, sold by R. H. Evans, fifteen days, 3067 lots, £7248. Part 5, January and February 1835, sold by B. Wheatley, twenty days, 5693 lots, £2623. Part 6, March and April (Evans), twenty days, 4666 lots, £6771. Part 7, May and June (Evans), twenty-one days, 6797 lots, £4035. Part 8, February and March 1836 (Evans), twelve days, 3170 lots, £3955. Part 9, April (Sotheby), fourteen days, 3218 lots, £6463. Part 10, May and June (Sotheby), fourteen days, 3490 lots, £2117. Part 11, manuscripts (Evans), ten days, 1717 lots, £8964. Part 12, July (Wheatley), eight clays, 1727 lots, £894. Part 13 (and last) was sold in February 1837 by Wheatley, six clays, 1558 lots, £780. This amount must be added to the totals of the twelve parts given above.
In 1835 the remarkable collection of Dr. Kloss of Frankfort was sold by Sotheby & Son. It contained many original and unpublished manuscripts and printed books, with MS. annotations attributed to Philip Melancthon. There were 4682 lots, which took twenty days to sell, and realised £2261. The catalogue was the work of Samuel Leigh Sotheby, and he expended much labour upon it.
Evans sold in 1835 the fine library of the Comte de Noailles, who is described in the catalogue as a distinguished collector." There were 952 lots, sold in five days for £3188.
The Hon. Baron (Sir William) Bolland's library was sold by Evans in 1840. The sale consisted of 2940 lots, and occupied thirteen days, realising £3019. In the next year was sold, also by Evans, the library of Thomas Hill (supposed to be the original of Paul Pry), during seven clays. There were 1684 lots, which brought £1424.
The library of George Chalmers, F.R. S., was sold by Evans in 1841 and 1842, and the catalogue was divided into three parts. Part 1, September and October 1841, nine days, 2292 lots, £2190. Part 2, March 1842, Six days, 1514 lots, D 9I8. Part 3, November 1842, eight days, 1966 lots, £2081.
Horace Walpole's collections were sold at Strawberry Hill by George Robins in April and May 1842, during twenty-four days. The first six days were devoted to the sale of the library, which consisted of 1555 lots, and realised £3900. It was very badly catalogued, and the books and books of prints, collection of portraits, &c., forming the seventh and eighth days' sale, were with-drawn, re-catalogued, and extended to a ten days' sale.
The library of Lord Berwick was sold at Sotheby's in April and May 1843 for £6726.
The great sale of the years 1844 and 1845, at Evans's, was that of the extensive library of the Duke of Sussex, which occupied sixty-one days in selling, and consisted of 14,107 lots. The total amount realised was £19,148. The sale was divided into six parts, as follows :—Part 1, July 1844, theology, twenty-four days, 5551 lots, £8438. Part 2, July and August 1844, manuscripts, four clays, 510 lots, £3126. Part 3, August 1844, history, topography, voyages and travels, six days, 1523 lots, £2096. Part 4, January and February 1845, Greek classics, foreign history, &c., eleven clays, 2641 lots, £2121. Part 5, April and May 1845, poetry, drama, polygraphy, Latin classics, belles-lettres, &c., twelve days, 2956 lots, £2649. Part 6, August 1845, four days, 926 lots, £718.
The library of Mr. B. H. Bright was sold at Sotheby's in three divisions in 1845, and the total amount realised was £8997.
In 1849 Messrs. Southgate & Barrett tried the experiment of selling the library of the Rev. H. F. Lyte and J. W. M. Lyte in the evening, but the new departure (or rather, revival of an old practice) did not meet with approval, and the practice was not followed. There were 4368 lots, and the sale occupied seventeen evenings.
In this same year the world was startled by the dispersion of the Duke of Buckingham's property at Stowe House, and Messrs. Sotheby sold the library during twenty-four days. There were 6211 lots, and the total amount realised for library and prints was £14,155. The Stowe MSS. were sold by private contract to the Earl of Ashburnham for £8000.
Since this time the sale of great libraries from the old family mansions have been so numerous, that little surprise is felt when another is added to the long list.
Messrs. Sotheby sold in 1851 the library of Granville Penn, during six days, for £7845 ; in 1851 the library of E. V. Utterson, during eight clays, for 15494; in 1853 the library of Dawson Turner for £4562, and that of Baron Taylor for 14087; in 1854 the private library of William Pickering for £10,700 ; in 1857 the library of the Earl of Shrews-bury for £3250.
Between 1859 and 1864 were sold at Sotheby's the various portions of the library of Mons. Gulielmo Libri. The 1176 lots of manuscripts were sold in eight days of March and April 1859, and realised 6783. The "choicer portion " of the library was sold in August of the same year, thirteen days, 2824 lots, £8822.
In 1861 the mathematical and general library was sold. Part 1, A to L, twelve days, 4335 lots, £ 1349. Part 2, M to Z, eight days, lots 4336 to 7268, 1877.
The "reserved portion" was sold in July 1862, during four days. The number of lots was 713, and these sold for the immense sum of £10,328, or an average of over £14 per lot.
The library of Miss Richardson Currer was sold at Sotheby's in 1862, during ten days, for £5984.
In July 1864 was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge the extremely interesting library of George Daniel, which was specially rich in old English literature, and remarkable for the superb collection of Shakespeare folios and quartos. The sale occupied ten days, and realised £15,865.
At the same auction rooms were sold in 1865 the library of J. B. Nicholl, in two parts, for £6175 ; in 1867 the library of Sir Charles Price for £5858 ; and in 1868 the library of Macready, the actor, for £1216.
In 1868, 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1873 were sold at Sotheby's eight portions of the unique poetical library of the Rev. T. Corser, which realised £19,781.
The library, engravings, and autographs of John Dillon were sold by the saine firm in 1869, during twelve days, for £8700_
The library of Lord Selsey was sold in 1872 for £4757.
The sale in 1873 by Messrs. Gadsden, Ellis & Co., at Hanworth Park, of the grand library of Henry Perkins created a sensation. The late owner had been a purchaser at the time of the bibliomaniacal fever after the Roxburghe sale, and for years the library was practically forgotten, so that the opportunity afforded to book-collectors of purchasing its choice rarities came as a surprise. The four days' sale realised £25,954.
In 1874 the choice library of Sir William Tite was sold at Sotheby's, during sixteen days, for £19,943.
The same firm sold the library of the Rev. C. II. Crauford, during five days, in July 1876 for £6229.
In 1878 Messrs. Sotheby sold the very choice collection of books and miniatures formed by Mr. J. T. Payne, of the firm of Payne & Foss, which realised £2843, or about £16 per lot, the day's sale consisting of only 117 lots.
In 1879, 188o, and 1881 the fine library of Dr. David Laing, of the Signet Library, Edinburgh, was sold at Sotheby's in four portions, which realised a total of £16,536, the first part alone making £13,288.
A portion of the library of Cecil Dunn Gardner was sold in June 1880 at Sotheby's, during six days, for £.4734. The same firm sold in 1881 a portion of the Earl of Clare's library for £2130, a portion of Lord Hampton's library for £3539, and a portion of the library of G. L. Way for f2324; Daniel Gurney's library, four days, £1687 ; library of a collector (Mr. Gulston), £1173.
Never before has there been, and probably never again will there be, two such remarkable sales as those of the Sunderland and Beckford libraries at the saine time. The Sunderland library, the sale of which was commenced by Messrs. Puttick and Simpson in December 1881, was formed by Charles, third Earl of Sunderland, who died on 19th April 1722, and was transferred from the Earl's house in Piccadilly in 1733, when Charles, fifth Earl of Sunderland, became Duke of Marlborough. Successive Dukes of Marlborough added a few books to the library, but it is noteworthy, as we turn over page after page of the catalogue, how seldom we come upon a book published since 1722. On the 1st of December a large company was gathered in the famous auction-room in Leicester Square, to watch the progress of what promised to be one of the most remarkable sales of modern times. Some of those who formed this company were to become duellists in the fight over the treasures arranged upon the shelves round the room, for the fight for the chief lots always resolved itself into a duel in the end. Those who expected the books to make a distinguished external appearance were disappointed, for more than a century's occupation of the great library at Blenheim, with a scorching sun beating down upon the backs of the hooks from the huge windows, had destroyed a large proportion of the bindings. When the sale opened it was seen that prices would rule high ; but at the same time, the character of the library, which contained many books now hopelessly out of fashion, was marked by the sudden drop in the prices from hundreds of pounds to a shilling or so, soon again to rise to hundreds of pounds. Mr. Quaritch was the hero of the sale, and after him the chief combatants were Mr. F. S. Ellis and M. Techener, while Mr. Henry Stevens, Mr. Pearson, Messrs. Pickering, Messrs. Morgand and Fatout, and some others made a good fight for the lots they required. As the bids of £10 and upwards went on rapidly till £1000 in some cases more were reached, the excited faces of those around formed a sight worth seeing, for few could resist the excitement, which found vent in applause, when the lot was knocked down.
Part 1, December 1881, realised £19,373. Part 2, April 1882, £9376. Part 3, July, £77922. Part 4, November, £10,129. Each of these parts consisted of ten clays' sale. Part 5 (and last), March 1883, contained eleven days' sale, and realised £9908. The lots were numbered throughout the parts, and amounted to 13,858. The total amount realised by the sale was £56,581, 6s.
When the sale was concluded Mr. Quaritch made a short speech appropriate to the occasion, and said that " This was the most wonderful library that had been sold by auction in the present century. Fine as the Hamilton library was he could form another like it to-morrow, but nothing like the Sunderland library would be seen again as a private collection. He held its founder in the highest respect and gratitude."
On the 30th of June 1882 the sale of the beautiful library of William Beckford was commenced at Sotheby's by Mr. Hodge. The books were in the finest condition, and in consequence they fetched very high prices. Mr. Henry Bohn, writing to The Times at the commencement of this sale, said that Beckford was the greatest book enthusiast he ever knew. He was a great collector of "Aldines and other early books bearing the insignia of celebrities, such as Francis I., Henri et Diane, and De Thou, and especially of choice old morocco bindings by Deseuil, Pasdeloup, and Derome." Mr. Bohn further said that after Beckford's death, and while the books were still at Bath, the Duke of Hamilton, Beckford's son-in-law, wished to sell the whole library. Mr. Bohn offered 130,000, payable within a week ; but although the Duke would willingly have accepted the offer, the Duchess would not agree to the sale of her father's books. Mr. Bohn estimated that the library was now worth £50,000. It actually sold for 173,55r. Part 1, June and July 1882, consisted of twelve days' sale and 3197 lots, which realised 131,516. Part 2, December, twelve days, 2732 lots, £22,340. Part 3, July 1883, twelve days, 2781 lots, £12,852. Part 4 (and last), November, four days, 1127 lots, £6843. The total number of lots in the forty days' sale was £9837.
The library collected by the Duke of Hamilton (when Marquis of Douglas) at the same time as Beckford was adding to his own, was sold by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge during eight days of May 1884. There were 2136 lots, which realised £12,892. The most valuable portion of the Hamilton library was the collection of match-less manuscripts, which were kept distinct from the printed books, and sold to the German Government.
During the years that the Blenheim and Hamilton Palace libraries were selling many valuable sales took place, and since then there have been a great number of fine libraries dispersed. We have only space to mention shortly a few of these ; but with respect to the last ten years there is the less need for a full list, in that a valuable record of sales is given in the annual volumes of Slater's " Book Prices Current," and Temple Scott's " Book Sales."
The important topographical library of James Comerford was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge in 1881. There were 4318 lots, in thirteen days' sale, which realised £8327.
In 1882 the library of Frederic Ouvry, P.S.A., which consisted of r628 lots, in a six clays' sale, was sold at Sotheby's for £6169 ; and the choice library of a gentleman, £3366.
In March 1882 was sold a portion of the Right Hon. A. J. B. Beresford-Hope's library (two days, £2316), and further portions were sold in 1892.
The Stourhead heirlooms (Sir Richard Colt Hoare) were sold at Sotheby's in July 1883, eight days, 1971 lots, £10,028.
The Towneley Hall library, consisting of 2815 lots, in an eight days' sale, realising £4616, and the Towneley Hall manuscripts (two days, 235 lots, £4054) were both sold in June 1883 at Sotheby's, as was also the Drake library (four days, £3276),
In 1884 were sold at Sotheby's the library of Francis Bedford, bookbinder (five days, 1551 lots), for £4867, and the Syston Park library of Sir John Hayford Thorold, Bart. (eight clays, 2110 lots), £28,001.
The Earl of Gosford's library was sold by Puttick and Simpson in 1884, eleven clays, 3363 lots, £11,318.
It is curious to compare the sale of a library such as Beckford's with one like James Crossley. Both were great collectors, and possessed many dainties ; but whilst the former was particular as to condition, with the consequence that his books fetched high prices, the latter was regardless of this, and necessarily his sold for small sums.
One portion of Crossley's library was sold at Manchester by F. Thompson & Son (seven days, 2682 lots), but other two parts were dispersed in London by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. Part 1 (1884), seven days, 2824 lots. Part 2 (1885), nine days, 3119 lots, £4095.
The fine library of the Earl of Jersey at Osterley Park was sold by Sotheby's in May 1885 for £13,007 ; where also was sold, in the following month, the library of the Rev. J. F. Russell for £8682.
In 1885 the sale of the miscellaneous but valuable library of Leonard Lawrie Hartley was commenced by Messrs. Puttick & Simpson. Part i (1885) consisted of 2475 lots, occupying ten days in the selling, which realised £9636. Part 2 (1886), ten days' sale of 2582 lots, £5258. Part 3 (1887), eight clays' sale of 2937 lots, £1635.
In January 1886 was sold the library of Mr. Wodhull, L11,972 ; and in November of the same year Edward Solly's, F.R.S., £1544.
A selection from the magnificent library of the Earl of Crawford was sold at Sotheby's in 1887 and 1889. Portion I (1887), ten days, 2146 lots, realised £19,073. Portion 2 (1889), four days, 1105 lots, £9324.
Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in 1887 and 1888 sold the almost equally fine library of Mr. James T. Gibson-Craig. First portion (1887), ten clays, 2927 lots, realised £6803. Second portion (1888), fifteen days, 5364 lots, £7907. Third portion (1888), three days, £809. The total amount realised for the three portions was £15,509.
A choice portion of Baron Seillicre's library was sold in February 1887 (1440 lots, L14,7944). A second portion was afterwards sold in Paris.
In 1888 Messrs. Christie, Manson & Woods sold the library of the Earl of Aylcsford (£10,574) ; and the Wimpole library, which formerly belonged to Lord Chancellor Hardwicke (£3244).
In the same year the beautiful library of Mr. R. S. Turner was sold at Sotheby's. Part 1, June 1888, twelve days, 2999 lots, £13,370. Part 2, November 1888, fourteen days, £2874. The total amount realised for the whole library was £16,244.
Mr. Turner sold in Paris in 1878 a previous collection of books in 774 lots, which realised the large sum of 319,100 francs (£12,764).
In February 1889 were sold at Sotheby's the Earl of Hopetoun's library of 1263 lots for £6117, and that of R. D. Dyneley, £3084. At the same auction rooms, and in the saine year, were sold the library of John Mansfield Mackenzie of Edinburgh, remark-able for a large number of illustrated editions of modern authors, 2168 lots, in an eight days' sale, £7072 ; and that of J. O. Halliwell Phillipps, four days, 1291 lots, £2298.
Also at Sotheby's in 1889 were sold the libraries of Frederick Perkins (2086 lots, £8222); the Duke of Buccleuch (selection), 1012 lots, £3705 ; W. D. Salmond, £2557.
In the following year Thomas Gaisford's library was sold at Sotheby's (eight days, 2 218 lots, 19236); also that of Frederick William Cosens (twelve days, 4995 lots, 15571); that of Sir Edward Sullivan (choicer portion), £11,002 ; that of Frank Marshall (six days, 1937 lots, £2187) ; that of Alexander Young, £2238 ; and that of T. H. Southby, £2241.
In 1891 were sold the libraries of Cornelius Paine (£3677); Edward Hailstone of Walton Hall :—Part r, ten days, 2728 lots, £4738. Part 2, eight days, 2904 lots, £4252 (total, £8991); W. H. Crawford of Lakelands, county Cork, twelve days, 3428 lots, £21,255 ; J. Anderson Rose, £2450 ; and Lord Bra-bourne, four days, 1149 lots, £2042.
The remainder of Lord Brabourne's library was sold by Messrs. Puttick & Simpson in 1893 (three days, 995 lots, £1058).
In 1892 were sold the libraries of John Wing-field Larking (three days, 946 lots, £3925) ; of Edwin Henry Lawrence (four days, 86o lots, £7409) ; of Joshua H. Hutchinson (832 lots, £2377) ; of Count Louis Apponyi, £3363 ; and of " a gentleman deceased" (418 lots, £2411)--all at Sotheby's.
In 1893 were sold at Sotheby's the Bateman heirlooms (W. & T. Bateman), six days' sale, 1840 lots, £7296 ; of Howard Wills, L8204 ; and of H. G. Reid, £3466 ; of Fred Burgess (dramatic library), £1558 ; also selected portion of the Auchinleck library, £2525. At the same rooms the sale of the Rev. W. E. Buckley's library was commenced. Part 1, ten days, 3552 lots, £4669. The second part was sold in April 1893, twelve days, 4266 lots, £4751. The total amount realised by the two sales was £9420.
A choice collection of books was sold by Sotheby in 1894, viz., the library of Birket Foster, 1361 lots, £5198.
In 1895 Were sold at Sotheby's the libraries of Mons. John Gennadius, eleven clays, 3222 lots, £5466 ; of Baron Larpent, £2630 ; of T. B. F. Hildyard, £4165 ; of the Earl of Orford, two days, 340 lots, £2609 ; of the Rev. W. J. Blew (liturgical), £2220 ; and of Dr. Hyde Clarke, I2598.
The library of the Rev. W. Bentinck L. Hawkins, F.R.S., was sold at Christie's in the same year. First portion, three clays, 747 lots, £1176. Second portion, two days, 471 lots, £833. Third and final portion, one day, 252 lots, £894. At the same rooms the library of William Stuart, 215 lots, £4296.
The sales at Sotheby's in 1896 which realised £2000 and upwards were those of John Tudor Frere, £3747 ; Sir W. Pole, £4343 ; Adrian Hope, £3551 ; Lord Coleridge, £2845 ; Sir Thomas Phillipps (MSS.), £6988 ; Sir E. H. Bunbury, £2965, Lord Bateman, £2151 ; Alfred Crampton, 12492 ; fine bindings of a collector, L3613 ; hooks and MSS. from various collections, £8554.
The chief sales at Sotheby's in 1897 have been as follows :—Sir Charles Stewart Forbes and others, five days, £5146 ; Beresford R. Heaton and others, three days, £4054 ; Sir Cecil Domville and others, four days, £5289.
The great sales, however, of 1897 were those of the first and second portions of the library of the Earl of Ashburnham. In the first part 1683 lots were sold for 130,1511 and in the second part 1208 lots for £18,649.
In these totals the sales of booksellers' stocks have not been recorded, because they do. not sell so well as private libraries, owing to a rather absurd impression in the minds of buyers that the rarer books would have sold out at the shops had they been of special value ; but it may he noted here that the stock of Messrs. Payne & Foss was sold in three portions in 185o for £8645 (certainly much less than its worth) by Sotheby, who sold in 1868-70-72 Mr. Henry G. Bohn's stock, in three parts, for £13,333, and Mr. Lilly's in 1871 and 1873, in five parts, for £13,080. In 1873 Mr. T. H. Lacy's stock of theatrical portraits and books were sold at Sotheby's for £5157.
Mr. F. S. Ellis's stock was sold in November 1885 for £15,996, and Mr. Toovey's in February 1893 for L7090. The latter's sporting books realised £1031.
It is very much the fashion now to average the amounts realised at auctions, and to point out that at such a sale the amount obtained was about L10 or more per lot. This is a useful generalisation so far as it goes, but further information is required to enable the reader to obtain a correct idea of value. The generalisation is useful in regard to a mass of sales ; thus we may say broadly, that in the last century the ordinary large and good libraries averaged about £1 per lot, while in the present century they average at least £2 per lot.
A small and select library will naturally average a much higher amount than a large library, in which many commonplace books must he included. These averages, however, will not help us very much to understand the relative value of Iibraries.
For instance, at the Sunderland sale some lots sold for enormous sums, while a large number fell for a few shillings ; but at the Hamilton Palace sales (William Beckford and the Duke of Hamilton) nearly every lot was of value, and although individual lots did not reach the sums realised at the Sunderland sale, the total was much larger. As an instance of what is meant, we may quote from the notice of the Ashburnham sale in the Times
"The 1683 lots realised a grand total of £30,151, 10S., which works out at an average of as nearly as possible £18 per lot. Hitherto the highest average was obtained by the disposal in 1884 of the Syston Park library, where 2110 lots brought £28,000, or £13, 5s. per lot, the next highest average being that of the Seilliere library, sold in 1887, 1140 lots realising £14,944, or about £13, 2S. per lot. It is scarcely fair, however, to compare the Ashburn-ham collection with either of these two libraries, as the Seilliere was admittedly only the choice portion of the assemblage of the baron, whilst nearly every lot in the Syston Park library was of importance. Eliminating from the Ashburnham collection the hundreds of lots which realised less than each, the average would be nearer £40 than £18."
This is all very well in its way, but one lot fetched £4000, and such an amount would de-moralise any average. Let us therefore see what are the particular points worthy of notice in the sums making up this large total of £3o,151. We find that five lots realised £r000 and over each, and including these five lots, forty-two were over floe each. Now the total for these forty-two lots is £20,348, which, if we deduct from the grand total, leaves 1641 lots for £9803, bringing our average down considerably.
This is not perhaps a quite fair system of striking an average, but it shows better how the prices of the hooks are distributed.