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Collections of Cecil and Desmond Harmsworth Auction Results

Bloomsbury’s last sale of 2008, Printed Books, Manuscripts and Artwork including the Collections of Cecil & Desmond Harmsworth (11-12th December), was a success. It would seem that private collections and items fresh to the market in good condition, still find eager buyers.

A substantial part of the Harmsworth Collection (sold by descendants of the newspaper magnates) was snapped up by an institution. An autograph letter from WB Yeats to Cecil Harmsworth on Irish Unification (lot 47) made £3120, three times the lower estimate; a letter from Joyce recounting his eye problems fetched £7800, almost double the lower estimate (lot 85). Lot 87 was an interesting account of Harmsworth’s difficulties in drawing Joyce, it sold for £1800 (estimate £300-400). Swift’s presentation copy of Caludius Claudianus (1650) made a healthy £9000 (estimate £6000-8000).

Once again Bloomsbury reaffirmed its place as the auction house for Modern First Editions. As Roddy Newlands said, ‘The market is still strong for genuinely scarce items, especially those in good condition or those with important associations.’ The very rare first edition of Lawrence Durrell’s Quaint Fragment (lot 229), one of very few printed (only two have appeared at auction in the last 30 years), and which contained poems written by the author between the age of 16-18, sold for £19200 against an estimate of £6000-8000. Ian Fleming is still very much flavour of the moment, and a signed first edition of From Russia With Love, inscribed to Geoffrey Boothroyd, ‘Armourer to JB’ (lot 908) made £14400, comfortably over the lower estimate. Lot 939 was a scarce, first edition in excellent condition of England Made Me by Graham Greene; it sold for £12000, double the higher estimate. A first edition, first impression in very good condition of the horror classic, The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley (lot 978), inscribed by the author and rare in its original publisher’s wrap around and sticker made £5400, well over its estimate of £1000-1500.

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