Over 400 years of Education History For Sale At Bonhams

More than 1000 books on education systems around the world, dating from the 1400s through to the mid 19th century, will be sold by Bonhams in London on 1 and 2 April 2008. Expected to fetch in excess of £250,000, the books are from the private library of John and Monica Lawson.

The collection contains the most extensive array of books on education to be offered for sale at auction and includes many rare titles. The library covers every facet of education, from its history, teaching methods and systems, to grammar, vocabulary and the languages of the world. There are even books giving educational advice including ones on how parents should bring up their children (Lot 564, estimate £4,000-6,000), or how to educate a prince (Lots 578, 579, and 609), in addition to children’s literature, Victorian games and puzzles.

Its main strength is that it spans over 400 years of British education with books on national schools, charities, religious education, traditional and radical systems, aspects of social history, poverty and politics, but there is also a grammar and vocabulary section. This part of the library features an important foreign language section, replete with rare tribal dialects, such as Moskito (Lot 868), Fernadian (Lot 893), Mpongwe (Lot 896), and Namaqua-Hottentot (Lot 897), while “The Vocabulary of the Peculiar Language Used by the Thugs… and of the Measures Which Have Been Adopted by the Supreme Government of India for its Suppression,” can be found at Lot 863, estimated at £200-400. The last part of the collection also includes exotic imprints from China and Africa to Australia and the South Sea Islands.

Other examples of what the collection offers include:

Lot 466
The advice of a father to a child, directing him on how to behave himself in the most important passages of his life. Dated 1665. Estimate: £400-600.

Lot 470
First edition of “Instructions to a Son”, written by the Marquis of Argyll (1598-1661) during his confinement in the Tower of London prior to his execution for high treason. Estimate: £100-200.

Lot 471
Mary Astell’s “A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest. By a Lover of her Sex.” In this second edition, estimated at £600-800, Astell makes her famous and vigorous case for the education of women in residential colleges. The book was an instant success and was widely discussed in her day. It was also a text that began to construct the attitude that later historians would call feminist. She argued that by not educating women in philosophy and religion they would be confined to trivial ornamental status and petty concerns.

Lot 565
A compendium of early 16th century advice books, including three byThomas Lupset (c.1495-1530), a friend of Thomas More, and correspondent of Erasmus. “An Exhortation to Yonge Men, Perswadynge Them to Walke in the Pathe Way that Leadeth to Honestie and Goodnes”, has been called the most polished piece of English prose written to this time”. It was written in the forme of a letter to Edmund Withipole, whilst staying at Cardinal Wolsey’s palace at More, Hertfordshire. Estimate £7,000-9,000.

The origins of the collection go back approximately 100 years to John Lawson’s grandfather, who was an avid book collector. His love of literature inspired John’s father to become a bookseller, starting the company E M Lawson & Co in 1921, and continuing the private collection when John’s grandfather died in

1931. The collection was housed in a small attic room in John’s private house at Sutton Coldfield, and when he and his wife Monica moved to East Hagbourne in Berkshire in 1968, John’s father gave him the library.

John Lawson says: “Now, my wife and I, having reached 75 years of age and no family member being intrinsically interested, we thought it better to disperse the books in the collection and allow others the pleasure of their company. It is with more than a tinge of sadness that we take this course, but we both feel we would like to see the books sold during our lifetime.”