Spetchley Park books in Gloucestershire sale

Rare books will take centre stage at Gloucestershire auctioneer’s Chorley’s this month, including the third and final chance for buyers to acquire volumes from Spetchley Park in Worcester with another 60 lots from this property going under the hammer.

The Berkeley family have been one of the foremost Catholic families in Britain for centuries and unsurprisingly the sales have included many religious tomes from the collection at Spetchley Park.

 'Psalmi Penitentiales'

Highlights from the Spetchley Park library include:

  • a Kelmscott Press limited edition volume ‘Psalmi Penitentiales’ printed by William Morris in 1894 and in a Doves Bindery binding. This fine and rare volume is estimated at £2,000-3,000.
  • an early volume from the transitional period between illuminated and printed books, these were printed onto vellum and then illuminated. Published in 1505 this is a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a book produced over half a millennium ago, estimate £4,000-6,000.
  • A collection of books in the sale largely focused on Sir Winston Churchill and his writings. Collected over 50 years, the collection is being sold to benefit several charities and includes Churchill’s first published work of nonfiction, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, 1898, estimated at £2,000-3,000. From the following year, a first edition of The River War concerns the campaign in the Sudan. As a direct result of Churchill’s writings the army prohibited serving officers from acting as war correspondents. This decision contributed to Churchill leaving the army, his earnings from writing being some five times that of his army income.  This two-volume first edition is offered at £2,000-3,000.

The River War

There is a military theme elsewhere in the sale with two watercolour views by Major-General Walter Fane CB of hill forts at Quetta and the Temple at Bagh. These views, dated 1878, ask £1,200-1,800. Military officers often recorded their experiences not only with diaries but also with highly accomplished watercolours and sketches.  Fane served in India, notably on the North West Frontier, as well as in China during the Opium Wars. He gave his name to troop of irregular cavalry made up of Indian volunteers that fought in China.  Fane’s Horse remains part of Pakistan’s armed forces to this day.

The sporting section of the sale includes paintings, prints, taxidermy and books. Standout lots include:

  • A set of eight prints of the Quorn Hunt after Henry Alken have, until recently, hung in the corridor of a local country house and accordingly have retained their colours well.  Offered at just £200-300 these offer tremendous value and decorative appeal.
  • ‘Snaffles’ (Charlie Johnson Payne) remains one of the most recognisable sporting artists and the sale includes a good section of his best-known images. ‘The Finest View in Europe’ depicts rolling countryside between the ears of a hunter, estimate £300-500, while ‘The Worst View in Europe’, depicting a jockey approaching Becher’s Brook, asks £150-200.
  • Another giant among 20th-century sporting artists was Lionel Edwards and the sale includes a good selection of Copeland & Sons ceramics decorated with hunting scenes. These include images of the Beaufort, Berkeley, VWH and Cotswold hunts and should see strong competition, estimate range £60-800.

An interesting group of ceramics have provenance back to the Rous Lench collection. The collection which was formed by Thomas Burn of Rous Lench court in Worcestershire was one of the most extensive and interesting collections of early ceramics ever to have come onto the market. Certain items that were either not offered in the sales of 1986 and 1990 or which went unsold are now set to go under the hammer at Chorley’s.

The small group includes Chelsea, Worcester and Bow pieces. An interesting figure of a recumbent pug is ascribed to Chelsea and is modelled after the Roubiliac figure of Hogarth’s dog, Trump. Hogarth identified strongly with his dog and models of Trump were produced by various factories, the estimate on this example is £3,000-5,000.

Hogarth's Dog 'Trump'

The sale also includes a strong section of Asian art including treasures from Japan and China. In the Chinese section:

  • a Kangxi period saucer dish decorated with a scene probably from The Romance of the Western Chamber this is set to fetch £6,000-8,000
  • a large vase dating to the late Qing dynasty is interesting not only for its decoration, derived from metalwares, but also its extensive use of underglaze red. To achieve the distinctive red colour, the firing temperature of the kiln had to be very precise and for this reason it is much rarer than underglaze blue. The vase is estimated at £300-500.

Japanese art from a local collector includes metalware, woodblock prints and weapons, including:

  • an intriguing group of six carved boxwood and bone scroll holders which are each modelled with a decorative surmount, these include a skull, a pipe smoker and a toad, estimate £800-1,200.

Collection of Japanese Scroll Holders

And finally, hailing from an entirely different continent, comes the Glenn Tutssel collection of Western memorabilia, featuring western saddles, spurs and lassos. The collection features several saddles including an early 20th-century example from Phoenix, Arizona estimated at £400-500.

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