Auctions | April 7, 2014

Original Manuscripts of Medical Recipes at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury

Advances in modern medicine make it very hard to imagine a time without prescription pills and high-tech medical equipment, but Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ sale of Printed Books and Manuscripts offers buyers an insight into the world of medicine as it was over 400 years ago.

Two medical manuscripts in particular offer a fascinating insight into medical recipes used from the 16th century to cure ailments. The first, a medical manuscript dating from 1599, is handwritten in French and Latin and entitled Ravier Plusiers receptes et regimes pour solager et guerir plusiers malade and decorated with pen and ink illustrations. This piece includes recipes for the bite of a mad dog, toothache, sickness of the spleen, sickness of the lungs, and cure of a sick child, it is estimated to sell for £1,000 - 1,500. [Lot 17]

The second manuscript from 1680 is entitled A Booke of Phizicke Sirgery & Walters & Cordialles, is beautifully handwritten and uses symbols (explained with a key at the end) for various ailments.  Recipes include "A water that cures all kinds of ffeavers"; "A stronge Sement"; " To bright the Hares"; "Mercurye water"; "Antomonie to Vomitt & Purge"; "Tincutre of Corrall"; "Piles"; "ffor the fflux of the Belly & Bloud"; "The ffalling Sicknesse"; "Redd oyle of Vitrioll"; "Creame of Tartari"; "Ague" and "My owne seere cloath". This unique book is also estimated at £1,000 - 1,500. [Lot 29] 

An album of 130 letters and signatures from some of Britain’s most famous literary, artistic and political figures is a wonderful lot for ephemera collectors. The items, collected between 1861 and 1915, includes letters from Alfred Tennyson, Gertrude Jekyll, E.H. Shepard, J.M. Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, E.V. Lucas, Garibaldi (ordering 6 bottles of cognac and 6 bottles of Vermouth), and three from Robert Baden-Powell. In addition to these, there are cut signatures of John Singer Sargent, Conan Doyle, Lord Esher, Hubert Parry, Charles Lyall and Aston Webb which are mostly laid down and bound in a contemporary vellum album with ink floral decoration on upper cover and cloth ties. The unique collection is estimated at £1,500 - 2,000. [Lot 59] 

From manuscripts to printed books, and a sixth edition of Goya y Lucientes (Francisco José de) - La Tauromaquia (1929) is one of only 200 produced. Comprising 40 etched plates with aquatint to represent Romantic poet and printmaker Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’s magnificent series on bull-fighting, Goya himself said that the book is "an idea of the beginnings, progress and present state of these celebrations in Spain." First published in 1816 as a series of 33 plates, the copy here includes the seven rejected plates from the first edition. The well-preserved example is estimated at £4,000 - 6,000. [Lot 230]

Elsewhere in the sale the renowned R.W. Lamb collection of Phaedrus and Phaedriana, editions, translations is offered as one of the most exceptional highlights. Compiled by a well-regarded biographer of Plato’s Phaedrus, R. W. Lamb, the collection comprises editions and translations of the fables, from the Chatsworth house copy of the editio princeps of 1596, to the late twentieth century and secondary works on the author and the genre, many of which are now rare. Phaedrus was one of two protagonists created by Plato, and was probably born a Thracian slave who lived in Italy during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius and produced the first collections in Latin of the fables of Aesop and others. A full list of the collection is available from the auctioneer on request, and the collection is estimated to sell for £7,000 - 10,000. [Lot 106]

From the literature section a further highlight from the sale comes in the form of a very rare first edition copy of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, together with her famous novel Persuasion (1818). Northanger Abbey is Austen’s sophisticated parody of the Gothic novel, and was her first completed work, written c. 1798-99. It was sold anonymously to a publisher for ten pounds but not issued, then subsequently bought back for the same price years later by Austen’s brother, the unlucky publisher having no idea that the writer was the author of the immensely popular Pride and Predjudice. This classic work is estimated to sell for £,500 - 2,000. [Lot 177]

A small selection of five books on Polar travel rounds off the highlights and includes a first edition copy of The Home of the Blizzard (1915) written by Australian geologist and Antarctic Explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.  Mawson was the main expedition leader during the era known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and this book tells the story of The Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which was led by Mawson between 1911 and 1914, and for which he was knighted. The two volume first edition is estimated to sell for £300-400. [Lot 276]

This auction will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ London saleroom in the heart of Mayfair, with viewing from Tuesday 15th - Thursday 17th April. The catalogue and details of online bidding with no additional fee can be found 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.