Earl of Rosebery's book collection to sell for £600k

Books and manuscripts from the prestigious English library of Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, will go under the hammer at Sotheby's in London on Thursday, October 29, 2009.

The sale will feature 132 lots and is estimated to raise in excess of £600,000.

Most remarkably, the sale features what is said to be the most important Lord Byron material offered at auction since the £50,000 sale of the manuscript of Beppo in 1976.

The Byron collection features 15 letters written by the Romantic-era poet to his fellow Cambridge graduate Francis Hodgson. They are estimated at £150,000-180,000.

The unique letters contain a significant amount of material not in the public domain.

Topics in the letters include love, poetry and religion. For the latter, Hodgson tries to persuade Byron to repent his behaviour in the name of Christianity, causing the two to argue over the religion's merits.

The pair's correspondence starts in 1808, and gives a valuable insight into Byron's mind before he achieved fame with the publication of Childe Harold.

Read more about Lord Byron's most important letters here.

Aside from the Byron letters, the Earl's collection of books includes applied arts, travel literature, atlases and history, among over things. Many are exceptionally bound.

Two particularly remarkable atlases are available. Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World published in 1676 by John Speed will be for sale, estimated at £50,000-60,000.

Collectors of old atlases will also know the name Christopher Saxton. His cartographic survey of England and Wales, published in 1579, is estimated at £40,000-60,000.

One piece expected to provoke excitement is William Bligh's account of his travels - signed by the author. It is estimated at £10,000-15,000. This include his account of the 1789 mutiny by Fletcher Christian, when Bligh was captaining the Bounty. 

Christian famously portrayed Bligh as a tyrant, though Bligh's account, backed up by other sources, suggests he was a lenient and considerate Commanding Officer.

The Sotheby's sale October 29, 2009 will give collectors an opportunity to buy a selection of rare and beautiful books and letters that literary collectors cannot afford to miss.

"The 5th Earl of Rosebery's selection is not only notable for its importance but also presents a very rare opportunity to those who appreciate the very best of rare publications," said David Goldthorpe, Senior Specialist in the Sotheby's Books and Manuscripts Department.


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