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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

World Records Set at Bloomsbury Auctions Important Books and Manuscripts Sale

Bloomsbury Auctions’ sale of Important Books and Manuscripts in London on 27th May was an outstanding success, with three world records for an inscribed Das Kapital by Karl Marx, a letter from the illustrator John Tenniel to Lewis Carroll and an inscribed first edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker. The sale totalled £1.7million and was 90% sold.

One of the focal points of the sale was undoubtedly the legendary long-lost ‘Wasp in a Wig’ letter from the illustrator John Tenniel to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carrroll) dated June 1, 1870 with an original ink sketch on the first page. As predicted there was considerable international interest and the letter was finally bought for a world record £51,240 for a Tenniel letter (estimate£15,000-20,000). The letter, in which Sir John Tenniel discusses revision of an illustration for Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, and proposes the omission of the ‘Wasp’ episode from the book, was reproduced in the late 19th century in facsimile by Dodgson’s nephew Stuart Dodgson Collingwood in The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (1898), but the original document has been lost for more than a century. This privately owned letter was important for several reasons: firstly it seems that little or none of the working correspondence between Dodgson and Tenniel has survived, so this note gives a unique glimpse into the process of developing and perfecting the Alice books; secondly a number of Tenniel sketches have been preserved, but this may well be the only spontaneous drawing of its type. Thanks to Collingwood, the text of the letter and the drawing have been known since 1898, but this small sheet of paper is the irreplaceable original.

Another outstanding result in Bloomsbury’s sale was the incredible £140,300 for a signed Das Kapital by Karl Marx. Estimated at £25,000-35,000 this was a world record for the first volume of Marx’s magnum opus, and the only one to be published in his life time, the other two were published posthumously under the editorship of Friedrich Engels. Such pre eminent works signed or inscribed by Marx are incredibly rare and no comparable titles have appeared at auction for 25 years. This excellent association copy sold at Bloomsbury Auctions was dated London, 18 Sept 1867 and was inscribed To Professor E Beesly his friend the historian, positivist and founding editor of the Fortnightly Review.

Yet another item to soar past all expectations was the best copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker that Bloomsbury Auctions had ever seen and it went for £53,680 estimated £7,500-10,000. This was a world record for an inscribed copy of Dracula; it was a first edition and a scarce first issue copy inscribed ‘To Mrs WS Gilbert with Bram Stocker’s very warm regards, 12/7/97’. Mrs WS Gilbert was the wife of William Schwenck Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame and a friend of Stoker. At the time there was some mild controversy over the friendship that existed between Gilbert and Stoker’s young wife Florence, as they often socialised and the former was regarded as something of a ‘decadent’.

One has come to expect live online bidding as well as telephone bidding in all major sales and these elements together with a packed, standing room only saleroom made this an exciting and highly successful sale with an unprecedented demand for telephone bidding. The 753 lots encompassed substantial substantial private collections ranging from botany, ornithology and garden and domestic design to English literature, history and political philosophy.