05 September 2009

Hocus Pocus 2

In July 2009 at Sotheby's a lot described as 'TRACTS ON MAGIC, FOLK LORE AND SOCIAL HISTORY' (20 works in one volume, contemporary calf, cropped, very occasionally affecting a few words, upper cover becoming detached...) made £30,000. Sotheby's (sometimes known to raffish dealers as 'Dotheboys' - a Dickensian reference) wanted 25% on top of this (£7500) for commission and may have collected another 5 to 10% from the owner, although they sometimes waive this if the estate is very grand or is consigning boatloads of desirable stuff. With books they tend to become motivated if a five figure sum can be achieved. If you spend over £500K on one item buyer's commission drops to a paltry 10%.

To be fair the cataloguer may have put in a few hours work on his description of the contents of this fabulous book. He certainly consulted Donald Wing's Short-Title Catalogue of Books --an essential book that can mostly be accessed through the splendid ViaLibri. It is hard to speculate what 'Hocus Pocus junior: The anatomy of legerdemain' (1654) would have made on its own. Maybe £18000? This is what we know of the other books from the catalogue:
[Neville, Henry] A new and further discovery of the Islle [sic] of Pines. Allen Bankes and Charles Harper, 1668, [Wing N509], first 2 leaves soiled with small marginal chips--Heath, J[ames] Paradise transplanted and restored. 1661, [1], 7pp., [apparently unrecorded issue, not in Wing]--[Gayton, Edmund] Walk knaves, walk. 1659, [Wing G421]--B., A. Learn to lye warm... reasons, wherefore a young man should marry an old woman. H. Brugis for W. Gilbert, 1672, [Wing B10], The life and death of Ralph Wallis the cobbler of Glocester. E. Okes, for William Whitwood, 1670, [Wing L2008]--Cromwell, Henry. The Lord Henry Cromwels speech in the house. 1659, woodcut illustration on title-page, [Wing L3047A, recording 6 copies]--The tales and jests of Mr. Hugh Peters. for S. D., 1660, engraved frontispiece, [Wing P1721; Sabin 61196]--[Butler, Samuel] A proposal humbly offered for the farming of liberty of conscience. 1663, [Wing P3705aA]--Wild, Robert. A letter from Dr Robert Wild. for T. Parkhurst, J. Starkey, F. Smith, and D. Newman, 1672, [Wing W2140]----Flagellum poeticum: or, a scourge for a wilde poet. Being an answer to Dr. Robert Wild's letter. for J. L., 1672, [Wing F1128]--[Achard, John] Moon-shine: or The restauration of jews-trumps and bagpipes. Being an answer to Dr. R. Wild's letter. for R.C., 1672, [Wing A439]--One and thirty new orders of Parliament, and the Parliaments declaration: published for the satisfaction of the people off [sic] the three nations of England, Scotland, and Ireland... together with the Parliaments ghost: to the tune of Mad Tom. 1659, [Wing O331]--[Stubbe, Henry] Rosemary and Bayes: or, animadversions upon a treatise called, The rehearsall trans-prosed. Jonathan Edwin, 1672, [Wing S6064]--C., J. Peters patern or the perfect path to worldly happiness. 1659, title within woodcut border, [Wing C784], couple of small tears affecting a few words--Dugdale, Sir William. The manner of creating the knights of the antient and honourable Order of the Bath. Phil. Stephens, 1661, [Wing M458], few small holes in final leaf affecting a few words--Langbaine, Gerald. The foundation of the universitie of Oxford. M. S. for Thomas Jenner, 1651, [Wing L370]--Ibid. The foundation of the universitie of Cambridge. M. S. for Thomas Jenner, 1651, [Wing L368]--Jennings, Abraham. Digitus Dei, or an horrid murther strangely detected. Declaring the suspicion, apprehending, arraignment, tryal, confession, and execution of Richard Rogers... for murthering of one Ruth Auton his sweetheart, having first begotten her with child of two children. A. Seile, 1664, [Wing J555A ]--Peacham, Henry. The worth of a peny, or, a caution to keep money. S. Griffin for William Lee, 1667, title with typographic border...

The most interesting and valuable book apart from Hocus Pocus has to be 'The Isle of Pines' (1668) by George Pine (ie Henry Neville) subtitled ' A late Discovery of a fourth Island in Terra Australis, Incognita' it is a much reprinted and much translated 'libertine fantasy' where a shipwreck leaves young George Pine with four women survivors on a mild and fertile island, soon copiously populated by their offspring, whose rapid increase in numbers is charted. Early British erotica, however mild, is much prized and very hard to find, it also has deep interest to collectors of early Australiana. It appears to be a very valuable book--Quaritch paid £300 for a copy ('stained & repaired with loss of text...') in 1980 and an ex library second edition made £600 in 1983. At a special sale in 2005 at Australian Book Auctions, someone coughed up a stonking $24000 Australian dollars ($18,604 US) - well over £10K for the 'Davidson' copy of the 1668 first.

Together with an 'orrible murder, some early economics ('The worth of a peny') another suggestive work ('Learn to lye warm.....') and an early work on bag-pipes this was a book to fight over. There is a theory, often advanced by the much missed book runner Andrew Henderson, that a small quantity of interesting books will often make more than if they were individually lotted. The idea is that dealers wanting one particular item are then forced to value the other books, some of which will be outside their area of expertise. In order to get the book they want they will often over estimate the final value of the other books. Auctioneers know this and make up interesting lots for dealers and collectors to fight over...In this case the lot was made up for them.

The book was said to have gone to a magic punter. One wonders if it is fated to be broken into twenty parts. A while ago David Copperfield was known as a great acquirer of such books - also the amusing and erudite Ricky Jay. Copperfield is appearing in Las Vegas at present and may not be such a punter (or he may have it all.) His Bardotesque ex wife Claudia Schiffer lives up the road from here in a country mansion (East Anglia.) Someone said they had seen her at a 'stately' car boot sale selling off posh tat but I think that was an illusion...