From Austen to the Willows: Great Classics of English literature come to Sotheby's

Tomorrow, December 16, Sotheby's is offering its sale of English Literature, History and Children's Books & Illustrations. This rich and diverse sale features a number of fine presentation copies of some of the canonical works of English Literature.

These include the copy of Jane Austen's Emma, uniquely bound in contemporary limp wrappers, sent by her to her literary mentor Maria Edgeworth, with Maria's ownership signature on the title page (estimated at £70,000 - 100,000, or up to $158,400 - a fantastic investment).

Maria Edgeworth's copy of Jane Austen Emma
Maria Edgeworth's copy of Jane Austen Emma

There are also first editions of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby and The Pickwick Papers warmly inscribed by him to the irascible English poet and author Walter Savage Landor (the model for Lawrence Boythorn in Bleak House: each estimated at £30,000 - 50,000).

A spectacular copy of the second edition of Oscar Wilde's Poems inscribed by the author to William Morris ("in deepest admiration from the author", £20,000 - 30,000), links two of the most important cultural figures of the 1890s.

The Jane Austen theme is augmented by the inclusion of the 90-piece dinner service formerly owned by Jane's brother, Edward Austen (1767-1852), acquired at Wedgwood's with Jane in September 1813 and used by her many times at his estate at Chawton in Hampshire, and copies of Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion formerly owned by Jane's most intimate friend, Martha Lloyd.

Among historical highlights are a magnificent series of 76 manuscript volumes of the Journals of the House of Commons in the seventeenth century (£50,000-70,000) and a document signed by Henry VIII (£10,000-15,000).

Investors in Tudor memorabilia will be interested to know that unbelievably, Henry VIII's letter asking the Pope for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon is not in a museum, or the Papal archives, but available for sale. For more details click here.

Also included in the sale is the Royal Military Library of King Ernest Augustus of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland, which contains items from the British and Hanoverian Royal Collections of the 18th and 19th centuries (lots 17-74).

The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows

Children's Books are represented by a first edition in dust-jacket of The Wind in the Willows, the very first Biggles book, Peter Rabbit in glassine and a first edition in dust-jacket of Swallows and Amazons. Original illustrations include an important oil portrait by Edmund Dulac, an early watercolour by Beatrix Potter, several pieces by Arthur Rackham and a fine cover design for The Wind in the Willows by E.H. Shepard.

Sotheby's is also including original illustrations by a number of contemporary book illustrators which will be sold to benefit the 'House of Illustration'. This is a charity that aims to create the world's first centre dedicated to the art of illustration.

Artists include Quentin Blake (Roald Dahl, etc.), Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpiller), Laura Child (Charlie and Lola), Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit), Jan Pienkowski (Meg and Mog), Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Ronald Searle (St Trinian's, etc.). Estimates start from £1,000 and the sale takes place in London.


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