£40k set of autographs for sale

At the Bonhams books and manuscripts sale on November 10, at which a play by Lord Cherbury and several other texts to fascinate cricket, James Bond and exploration fans are some manuscripts no autograph collector could ignore.

Chief amongst these is an extraordinary set of letters to radical reformer and merchant Thomas Walker.

Thomas Walker Paine Joseph Priestley Hardy
Thomas Walker's letters

The 160 letters include ones from famous reformer Thomas Paine, discussing his The Rights of Man, and a letter from scientist Joseph Priestley, thanking Walker and others for their assistance after his house had been destroyed in a riot.

"It will... be a motive with me to continue my exertions, whatever they have been, in favour of truth and science" he comments, humbly.

Walker's anti-slavery campaigning is represented best by a full 14 letters from the great abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. There are exchanges with and regarding several political figures, as well as innumerable greats including Thomas Hardy.

The collection, which is generally in very good condition, is estimated at £30-40k.

A signature from considerably earlier than these is also notable: Henry VII's.

Henry VII letter invasion Scotland James IV
Henry VII letter

It is is a letter written to the Duke of Lorraine, telling him that James IV of Scotland is planning to invade England and that he (Henry) must march north to oppose him, and to send troops.

James IV's invasion is in support for Perkin Warbeck, and pre-dates a truce between the two kings, sealed by marriage which would ultimately lead to the union of the two kingdoms through James VI & I. The letter, in generally fine condition, is expected to sell for £8,000-10,000.

Collectors specialising in historical documents between these two periods may be interested to know we have a rare document signed by Oliver Cromwell available.

To return to more recent history, two letters of Charles Darwin are available: one to a scientific politician expressing admiration for his bill on vivisection, with reservations about how the required registering of every example might be received by the unscientific.

 The second is to John Murray, his publisher, about arranging the publication of the Origin of Species in the USA and Darwin's wish to supply corrections. The former is valued at £4,000-6,000 and the latter at £10,000-15,000.

An impressive selection of autographs for anyone interested in history or science, the auction will take place in New Bond Street, London.


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