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A ‘White Glove’ Auction – Books from the Ecclesiastical Collection of Joseph Mendham

A selection of 339 ecclesiastical books from the collection of clergyman and controversialist Joseph Mendham sold on Thursday 20th March through Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions. A ‘white glove’ auction for the London based saleroom saw every lot sell for a total of £357,392.

A Most True Relation of The Attachment, Life, Death, and Confession of Will (1641)
A Most True Relation of The Attachment, Life, Death, and Confession of Will (1641)
Rupert Powell, Deputy Chairman of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions said: “We are extremely pleased with the results from this outstanding auction. They confirm the strength of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions position in the bibliographic market, in even the most highly specialised areas.”

London- born Joseph Mendham was educated at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford until graduating from his MA in 1795. It was here that he was heavily influenced by evangelicalism under its vice-principal, Isaac Crouch. In 1793 he was ordained deacon and priest the following year, but resigned his curacy in 1826 to devote his time to book collecting and the authorship of various works on Reformation and post-Reformation controversies. Mendham collected a wide variety of material by 16th – 17th century Catholic and Protestant writers much of which he used in his writings as a strong advocate on the protestant side. In 1836 Mendham was appointed perpetual curate of Hill, near Sutton Coldfield but soon retired due to ill health.

A copy of the New Testament in both Greek and Latin, Novum Testamentu (1535), prepared by theologian Desiderius Erasmus, and printed by Johann Froben of Basel, was the highlight of the sale, realising a fantastic £10,800. Containing commentaries by Erasmus, that were taken from both Greek manuscripts and segments translated from Latin Vulgate, the book was originally from the library of fellow theologian, book collector, and chaplain to George III, Rev. César de Missy. This copy of the fifth and final edition was first sold alongside the rest of his books at auction on 18 March 1776, and the ink inscription on the first title page reads: “Ex libris Caesaris De Missy Berolinensis Londini: An. Dm 1748.” [Lot 39]

A copy of Catechismus Brevis Christianae Disciplinae Summam Continens (1552), attributed to English protestant churchman, and controversial writer, John Ponet, carries notes and inscriptions from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. This remarkable book was sold in the first ever public auction of books in England, and belonged to the clergyman Dr Lazarus Seaman (d. 1675) and Michael Lort (1724/5-90), clergyman, antiquary and librarian to the archbishop of Canterbury.

Written in Latin, this copy of the book was sold as lot 1079 for £5 5s in the Heber sale, an auction that lasted a staggering 216 days and saw the 105,000 volumes that comprised the library of the prolific book-collector Richard Heber, go under the hammer. In his book Certamen Epistolare (1692) Heylin writes: “this Catechism is so hard to come by, that scarce one scholar in 500 hath ever heard of it; and hardly one in a 1000 hath ever seen it”. This exceedingly rare copy sold for £4,464. [Lot 278]

A Most True Relation of The Attachment, Life, Death, and Confession of Will (1641) is a fascinating historical commentary, written and released by the Roman Catholic Church. It is a true description of the birth, education, life and death of Walter, Alias Walker, Ward or Slater, a Priest and Jesuite who was born in cumberland and ‘hang’d drawne and quartered at Tyburn’ on the 26th July 1641. He was killed for ‘not obeying the lawes of this our Kingdome, by returning againe after banishment, and seducing the Kings subjects.’ His confession was taken at his place of execution. Only three copies of this extremely scarce book are known to exist and it sold for £1,364. [Lot 244]

On a similar theme, The Examination of the constante Martir of Christ (1559) is a true report byclergyman and protestant martyr, John Phillpots, who was condemned for heresy on the16th December 1555. He was examined thirteen times between 2 October and 5 December 1555 by the Bishop of London, Eduard Bonner, better know as Bloody Bonner for his persecution of heritics under the Catholic government of Mary I. During the time he was encasereated and examined he recorded his experiences, and they were susequently smuggled out of the prison before he was burnt to death on the 18th December 1555. This copy of the book was sold for £3,224. [Lot 274]

The auction was held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ London saleroom in the heart of Mayfair. The catalogue and full prices realised can be found online at