News | April 11, 2024

Correspondence of Duke of Devonshire's Personal Pianist 'Loaned' to Charles Dickens Leads Tennants Auction


From the Charles Coote archive

An interesting archive of letters and ephemera relating to the composer and bandmaster Charles Coote (1809-1880), personal pianist to William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, has sold for £4,500 in the Books, Maps & Manuscripts Sale at North Yorkshire-based Tennants Auctioneers.

Coote was associated with Chatsworth for more than 30 years, leading the Duke’s private orchestra and composing for the household. Throughout his career he wrote or arranged around 200 pieces of music including his Chatsworth Quadrilles in 1843 in celebration of a visit to the great house by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. On numerous occasions Coote was ‘loaned’ to Charles Dickens, to write music and lead the band for his various stage productions around the country, including a comedy staged at the Duke’s London home which was performed in front of the Queen. A letter in the Chatsworth archive written by Dickens to the Duke describes how delighted he was with Coote and his ability to bring the orchestra together.

Selling at £3,800 in the same sale was an album of 81 photographs taken on the legendary Challenger Expedition of 1872-1876, a landmark voyage that established the foundations of oceanography. A joint venture between the Royal Society of London and the British Admiralty, a converted Royal Navy vessel set out from Sheerness to circumnavigate the globe, exploring the physical, chemical, and biological make-up of the deep sea and charting oceanic eco-systems. 

Comprising 250 sailors and six civilian scientists led by Charles Wyville Thomson, the team covered nearly 69,000 nautical miles in three and a half years, dredging, trawling, and sounding at hundreds of locations around the world, taking samples and recording all their findings for the scientific record. The album was monogrammed 'JB', suggesting possible ownership to John Young Buchanan, chemist to the expedition.

Elsewhere, there was considerable interest in a collection of books from the Fred Gettings Library. Gettings was an author who penned numerous books on the occult and across a vast range of arcane topics. Twenty lots from his private collection were on offer in the sale, with subjects including magic, prophecy, Hermetics, the writings of Nostradamus and the occult which sold for for a total hammer price of £7,180. Most notably, a group lot of books which included Sir Ernest Bennett’s Apparitions and Haunted Houses, A Survey of Evidence sold for £2,200, and a group of tarot cards and related literature sold for £1,200.  

Other highlights included:

  • a copy of Christopher Saxton’s Map of Yorkshire of 1577, the earliest printed map of the county (sold for £2,100)
  • two books relating to Blue Coat School in Kendal (sold for £420)
  • 24 proof copies of John Martin’s illustrations for Paradise Lost (sold for £1,300)
  • a collection of 19th century photographs relating to Windsor and Eton College, and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as several European locations (sold for £700)
  • a Description of The Barossa Range and its Neighbourhood, in South Australia by ‘Agricola’ and illustrated by George French Angas (sold for £3,500)
  • a copy of Angas’ The Kafirs Illustrated which depicts numerous tribes in Southern Africa (sold for £2,800)