Auctions | March 27, 2014

Byron and Botany Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ Bibliophile Sale

A wonderful selection of books on offer at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ monthly Bibliophile sale includes works by the great Romantic writers William Wordsworth and Lord Byron, as well as a small but perfectly formed section of books on flora. The sale will be held on Thursday 10th April in their Godalming saleroom.

A small selection of botanical works includes some rare and beautifully preserved books. A copy of Studies of Flowers from Nature (1818) by Miss J. Smith is an attractive volume of 20 hand-coloured aquatint plates, each in two states (hand-coloured and uncoloured). It was issued in order to educate the leisured classes in the art of flower and watercolour painting from nature.

These books intended to educate in painting from nature were produced in large quantities in the late 18th and early 19th century, but few have survived. The uncoloured duplicate plates were intended for beginners to practice on, and full instructions are provided on which paints should be used in order to achieve a naturalistic image of the original. The book is estimated to sell for £3,000 - 4,000. [Lot 78]

A further book of instruction for gardeners, Ten Lithographic Coloured Flowers with Botanical Descriptions (1826) is a rare and early example of lithography and is described as being drawn and coloured by a Lady. Though the title calls for only ten plates, 40 were actually issued, the decision to extend the work presumably being made after the title was printed.  The artist/author includes rarer specimens along with some more common flowers, and also provides the botanical bi-nomials along with the common names for each. This beautifully illustrated book, with commentary, is estimated at £1,000 - 1,500. [Lot 80]

A rare first edition of Wordsworth’s The Excursion (1814), one of his most interesting books, was planned as the second part of The Recluse, a three-part philosophical poem which was never completed. Having been planned by Wordsworth during his 20’s it is clear that the three-part poem was also meant to include The Prelude (1850), which was eventually published posthumously by his wife. It was his intent to write The Recluse with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and for it to supersede John Milton’s Paradise Lost in length. In the introduction to the 1850 edition of The Prelude Wordsworth describes his and Coleridge’s intention for The Recluse:  "to compose a philosophical Poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society, and to be entitled the Recluse; as having for its principal subject, the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement." This fascinating book is estimated to sell for £600-800 [Lot 255]

An adaptation of the French play by Charles Nodier, The Bride of the Isles, A Tale of the Vampire (1820) is itself an adaptation of the 1819 short story by Dr Polidori, Lord Byron's travelling doctor. The English adaptation was undertaken by James Robinson Planché (1796-1880), playwright and herald.  Widely regarded as the exception to Planché's earlier unexceptional writing, The Vampire, or, The Bride of the Isles, created a stir at the Lyceum in August 1820, in particular for its use of the innovative ‘Vampire trap’.   The book is estimated at £180-220. [Lot 252]

With text in both French and English, a first illustrated edition of A Description of the Library at Merly in the County of Dorset (1785), offers a fascinating insight into the collection of books and pictures belonging to the 18th-century gentleman, Ralph Willett. Ralph Willett (1719-95) inherited a fortune from the family estates in the West Indies, and built a house at Merly in Dorset to accommodate his extensive collection of books and pictures.

He later extended the house with two wings, one housing a magnificent library with elaborate bookcases and plasterwork, designed by Willett and executed by William Collins. The library, particularly rich in incunabula and early printed books, as well as architecture, botany, travel and topography, was dispersed at auction following his death in a seventeen day sale in 1813, and the botanical drawings in 1814 over nineteen days. The library was then demolished by his nephew who inherited the estate.  The book is estimated to sell for £800-1,000. [Lot 139]

The auction will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions' Godalming saleroom on Thursday 10th April. The catalogue and full prices realised can be found online at  


The full catalogue for this auction is available online.

Click here to view a fully illustrated online catalogue.

Click here to view a pdf of the sale catalogue.