Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Library of an English Bibliophile, Part 1: Brontë first-editions

EDP24 reports that a few first editions of Brontë novels are going under the hammer on October 28th at Sotheby's in London. The article pays special atttention to Wuthering Heights (which in its three-decker first edition is, of course, inseparable from Agnes Grey):

It has been one of the most read books for more than a century and a half and now a rare copy of Wuthering Heights, once owned by a wealthy Norfolk parson, is set to fetch thousands of pounds at auction.
The first edition copy of Emily Brontë's masterpiece, first published in three volumes in 1847, was owned by the Rev John Nathaniel Micklethwait, who lived at Coltishall Hall and later inherited Taverham Hall.
It is among 149 rare books, mostly first editions, being put up for sale by a 75-year-old mystery man at Sotherby's in London this month and is expected to sell for up to £75,000. [...]
Mr Micklethwait's “very rare” copy is one of three first editions by the Brontë sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne - expected to sell for a total of £200,000 at the Sotheby's sale on October 28.
Philip Errington, an antiquarian books expert at Sotheby's, said: “These Brontë books are in absolutely stunning condition, as good and original as you are likely to get. I suspect that they will do extremely well.” [...]
First edition copies of Brontë classics, especially those in fine condition, are highly-prized and sought-after by collectors. At Sotheby's in New York, on December 3,2004, a first edition copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë sold for £59,366.
It is not known when Mr Micklethwait, who was born in Beeston, near Dereham, acquired the book.
Aged in his forties, the parson inherited Taverham Hall, now a school, in 1856, nine years after the publication of Wuthering Heights, following the death of his father Nathaniel Micklethwait.
In 1871, together with his wife Emily, who was fourteen years his junior, he employed 16 servants at Taverham Hall. At Coltishall Hall, in 1851, he employed only five servants, including Cromer-born housemaid, Charlotte Curtis, 20, and Surlingham-born groom, Benjamin Barlow, 28. (Kate Scotter)
According to the e-catalogue, these are the Brontë-related lots in the Sotheby's The Library of an English Bibliophile, Part 1 auction of October 28th:
LOT 17
[BRONTË, ANNE.]
THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL.BY ACTON BELL. LONDON: T.C. NEWBY, 1848
12mo (201 x 120mm.), 3 volumes, first edition, half-title in volume 1, publisher's advertisement at the end of volume 1, original half green cloth and medium grey boards (Smith's binding variant A), printed paper labels on spines, preserved in green cloth case and matching green quarter morocco slipcase, some gatherings slightly proud (especially in volume 1), binding very slightly out of shape, corners slightly bumped, labels slightly darkened and missing some small pieces
ESTIMATE 60,000 - 70,000 GBP
PROVENANCE
The Earl of Normanton (probably Welbore Ellis Agar, 2nd Earl, 1778-1868) of Somerley House, near Ringwood in Hampshire, armorial bookplate; H. Bradley Martin, the sale of Highly Important English Literature from his library, Sotheby's New York, 30 April and 1 May 1990, lot 2653
LITERATURE
Smith 4; Parrish 91
CATALOGUE NOTE
Very rare in the original publisher's binding: only this, the Bradley Martin copy, has been sold at auction since 1975. A fine copy of the author's powerful second novel, and her only separately published work. Although criticised at the time for its "morbid love for the coarse" the book sold well, and is now seen as an innovative and radical expression of feminist values, "challenging the then current ideal of woman as an 'angel' in the house, submissive to her lot as her husband's chattel" (Margaret Smith, Oxford DNB).


LOT 18
[BRONTË, CHARLOTTE.]
THE PROFESSOR, A TALE. BY CURRER BELL. LONDON: SMITH, ELDER &CO., 1857

8vo (192 x 123mm.), 2 volumes, first edition, small embossed circular blind-stamp with eagle on title pages, half-titles in both volumes, 8pp. advertisement for the Uniform Edition of the Works of Currer Bell at the end of volume 2, followed by 16pp. catalogue dated June 1857, original dark grayish purple morocco cloth, covers elaborately decorated in blind with floral patterns enclosed by rectangular and diamond-shaped borders, spines with similar patterns and lettered in gilt, yellowish-coated endpapers, binder's ticket at the end of volume 1 (Westleys and Co.), preserved in matching folding cloth box, spines somewhat faded and minor cracking to joints of volume 1 but otherwise a near fine copy
ESTIMATE 2,000 - 3,000 GBP
PROVENANCE

A. Edward Newton, bookplates; the sale of his Collection of Books and Manuscripts, Parke-Bernet, New York, 14-16 May 1941, lot 251; Alfred Knight, bookplates
LITERATURE
Smith 7; Sadleir 347


LOT 19
[BRONTË, CHARLOTTE.]
VILLETTE. BY CURRER BELL. LONDON: SMITH, ELDER &CO., 1853

8vo (196 x 122mm.), first edition, publisher's catalogue dated January 1853 at the end of volume 1, original grayish yellowish brown ribbed morocco cloth, covers decorated in blind with borders enclosing floral designs, spines also decorated in blind and lettered in gilt, pale yellow-coated endpapers, preserved in folding cloth box, a few small spots or stains to the text, some tiny edge tears
ESTIMATE 2,500 - 3,000 GBP
LITERATURE

Smith 6; Sadleir 349
CATALOGUE NOTE
A near fine copy in the original cloth of Charlotte Brontë's final novel, highly prized by modern critics for its sophisticated narration and ambiguity.


LOT 20
[BRONTË, CHARLOTTE.]
JANE EYRE. AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. EDITED BY CURRER BELL. LONDON: SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 1847

8vo (198 x 121mm.), first edition, 3 volumes, publisher's 32pp. catalogue dated June 1847 and one leaf advertising The Calcutta Review at the end of volume 1, original dark greyish reddish brown vertically-ribbed cloth, covers decorated in blind with triple line border enclosing decorative trellis-like border, pale yellow endpapers, preserved in blue cloth case and quarter blue morocco slipcase, recased, expert restoration and repairs to the spine ends, joints and hinges
ESTIMATE 35,000 - 50,000 GBP
PROVENANCE

? "Mrs Elseley... York", pencil inscriptions on upper paste-downs; Morris H. Parrish, bookplates (with later library annotation in pencil, "withdrawn 28 January 1959"); Barton Currie, morocco book-label in cloth case
The American collector Morris H. Parrish assembled one of the finest libraries of Victorian literature anywhere in the world between the First World War and his death in 1944, with a particular focus on original condition and acquiring both English and American first editions. The bulk of the collection, containing over 6,500 volumes and 1,250 manuscripts, and formerly housed in his residence Dormy House in Pine Valley, New Jersey, was bequeathed to Princeton University Library. Another copy of Jane Eyre is recorded in Princeton's holdings, so the present copy is presumably a duplicate deaccessioned in or around 1959.
LITERATURE
Smith 2; Sadleir 346; Ashley I, p.72; Wolff 826; Tinker 379; Grolier English 83; Parrish pp.87-8
CATALOGUE NOTE
A near fine copy in the original cloth of the author's powerful and enduring novel, the inspiration behind countless further novels, literary and stage works since and the basis for many film adaptations and reinterpretations, by classic directors such as Orson Welles, Franco Zeffirelli and Jane Campion.(?)

LOT 21
[BRONTË, EMILY AND ANNE BRONTË.]
WUTHERING HEIGHTS. A NOVEL BY ELLIS BELL AND AGNES GREY. A NOVEL BY ACTON BELL. LONDON: THOMAS CAUTLEY NEWBY, 1847

8vo (190 x 115mm.), 3 volumes, first edition, without the advertisements at the end of volume 3, nineteenth-century half calf, marbled boards, edges and endpapers, spines in six compartments decorated in gilt with red morocco labels lettered in gilt, preserved in folding brown cloth case and matching brown quarter morocco slipcase, some minor browning and spotting to early and late leaves, hinges repaired, spine labels renewed
ESTIMATE 50,000 - 75,000 GBP
PROVENANCE

John Micklethwait, Taverham Hall, ownership signatures on front endpapers; H. Bradley Martin, sale of Highly Important English Literature from his library, Sotheby's New York, 30 April and 1 May 1990, lot 2659
Revd. John Nathaniel Micklethwait, a retired parson, inherited the Taverham Hall estate, near Norwich in Norfolk, through the female side of the family around 1850.
LITERATURE
Smith 2; Sadleir 350
CATALOGUE NOTE
The very rare first edition (issued with her sister's novel Agnes Grey) in a near contemporary binding of Emily Brontë's classic romantic work, consistently among the top three selling novels in the English language. Almost universally rejected by uncomprehending reviewers upon publication (sales were not even of an order to justify any publisher's payment to either Emily or Anne Brontë) Wuthering Heights has since become established as one of the most extraordinary novels of the nineteenth century, combining passionate and vindictive characters, a moorland setting, casual violence, self-destructive love and a vengeful theme, all held together with "the complete absence of any moral tone or purposea quality almost unique in Victorian fiction" (Juliet Barker, Oxford DNB). 
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