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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

18th Century Book Offers Insight into Modern Medicine

Today’s medical professionals face the same problems as 18th Century physician Robert Pitt: should apothecaries be allowed to prescribe medicine? Pitt’s book ‘The Antidote: or, the Preservative of Health and Life’ contributes to the long running dispute and goes up for auction on Thursday 14th November at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, Godalming.

Modern Medicine BookThis scarce first edition copy written by Pitt, Oxford anatomist and physician to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, is expected to achieve £300-400. In it, Pitt criticizes apothecaries who had encroached upon doctors’ rights to prescribe and make up their own medicines [Lot 110].

Although William Curtis began his career as an apothecary and botanist at Kew Gardens, in 1787 he founded The Botanical Magazine, which brought natural history illustrators Sydenham Edwards, William Kilburn and James Sowerby into the public eye. The longest running Botanical magazine was initially launched as a gardening and botanical journal and is more commonly known by its later name of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

Despite limited financial success Curtis published a number of magazines in the field. This copy of volume 1 of The Botanical Magazine includes 108 engraved hand-coloured plates, illustrated in the most part by Sydenham Edwards, who left to set up rival magazine The Botanical Register, following a dispute with the editors. This example is estimated at £600-800 [Lot 117].

A selection of books focused on military travel includes Sketches of the Country and Costume in Portugal and Spain [1813]. Written during the campaign and on the route of the British Army in 1808 and 1809, the book contains 55 aquatint plates from Reverend William Bradford. An ex-library copy with blind-stamps, new endpapers and modern morocco-backed boards, it is estimated at £300-500 [Lot229].

The sale also includes books by some of the most famous of 20th Century writers, among the most important is a book believed to be Dashiell Hammett’s favourite of his novels, The Glass Key (1931) a copy of which is offered with its original dust-jacked and in near-fine condition.

The New York Times described Hammett as “the dean of the…’hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction”. Author of detective novels, short stories and screenplays, he was also a prominent political activist who served as President of the Civil Rights Congress. In The Glass Key, Hammett utilises sympathetic gangster Ned Beaumont to explore gang violence, sexual politics and dishonesty in high places [£750-1000, Lot 497].

Popular poet and broadcaster John Betjeman is represented by a first edition of his first book, Mount Zion (1931), bearing a personal inscription to Francis Bingham “Inscribed for Francis Bingham Esq, Technical Reproducer by J. Betjeman Editor of the MR (pink), Editor of the Bulletin (Green) assisted by M.H. Morgan and V. Jennings who are depicted on the cover. The bloody old Admiralty, Bath, September 1944.” It is also accompanied by a note from Bingham asking Betjeman for the inscription. It is estimated at £600-800 [Lot 469].

A copy of Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (1934), signed with presentation inscription from the author to Georgia and Sachi [Sitwell] is estimated at £150-200 [Lot537], and the complete collection of Agatha Christie’s crime novels in 39 volumes, with portraits, and full-page illustrations by Pierre Monnerat and other artists, is estimated at £200-300 [Lot 474].

The sale at Bloomsbury’s Baverstock House, Godalming on Thursday 14th November, is on view on the 12th-13th November (9.00am – 5.00pm). Information about online bidding with no additional premium is available at