John Gould monograph flies in sale

A copy of A Monograph of the Trogonidae, or Family of Trogons by John Gould sold for a hammer of £15,000 in the Books, Maps and Manuscripts Sale at Tennants Auctioneers recently.

From lowly beginnings, John Gould (1804-1881) became the most celebrated British ornithologist of the 19th century, contributing enormously to ornithology and evolutionary science while amassing a personal fortune through his self-published and now highly prized folios. Having worked first as a gardener, and then as a taxidermist, Gould would go on to publish an extraordinary forty-one folios with over 3000 plates, as well as writing numerous scientific papers.

Gould would study, describe, and sketch the birds, before having his wife or later other artists such as Henry Constantine Richter, William Matthew Hart and Edward Lear complete the hand-coloured lithographs to his exact specifications. The illustrations were beautifully and carefully executed, artistic yet naturalistic depictions of birds set amongst appropriate foliage.  

Elsewhere in the sale, one of the top lots was a volume of works by Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), the Dutch humanist scholar and theologian. The volume comprised five volumes, published in 1522, 1523 and 1524 and bound as one, which sold well above estimate at £7,500. It also featured interesting early manuscript on the end papers.    

A beautifully illuminated late medieval prayer book sold for £5,000. Measuring just 10cm high, the prayer book in Latin script is thought to have been made in the 14th or 15th century, possibly in Holland. It was once in the ‘Valuable and Extensive Library’ of George Dunn of Woolley Hall, which was dispersed in three auctions at Sotheby’s between 1913 and 1915.  

An outstanding private collection of ten lots of playing cards sold for a total hammer price of £14,040, ten times the pre-sale low estimate. The cards, which were sold in group lots, dated from the 18th and 19th centuries. The top lot of the collection comprised six packs of 18th century cards and sold for £5,000.  

Also of note was a small family collection of manuscript books with Quaker interest, with the earliest of the three volumes being a ‘Private Calendar’ with detailed diary entries from 1st January 1795 to 13th September 1802, which sold for £1,700. The author was Stephen Wilson, a silk manufacturer who recorded his life around Hackney and Bethnal Green. The second volume is In the Days of Old. A Quaker Child, by Granny, written by Isabella Tylor (née Harris) for her grandchildren. The illustrated volume details her childhood in a ‘village near London’ – Stoke Newington – then a leafy village amongst the fields. She then moved to Mayfield in Sussex, before moving to Kensington where the book was written in 1893. Containing original watercolours, a birth certificate, photographs and family inscriptions, the volume sold for £900.

Finally, a volume of manuscript memoirs of wounded soldiers at St. Mary’s War Hospital, Reigate between 1915 and 1916 sold for £400. Freda Meryon Chance, a V.A.D. at St. Mary’s Red Cross Hospital, encouraged the patients in her care to write accounts of their personal experiences in her notebook. There are 32 contributions, with several detailing action at the front and the circumstances which gave rise to their injuries and several drawings.