Catalogues | January 19, 2021

Peter Harrington Announces New Catalogue: Fifty Fine Items

Courtesy of Peter Harrington

Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, one of the very few first edition copies surviving uncut and intact in bookseller’s boards (1755), offered at £275,000.

London — Exceedingly rare works by Galileo, Samuel Johnson and J.K. Rowling are among a selection of exceptional books and manuscripts brought together in Fifty Fine Items, the new catalogue from Peter Harrington featuring 50 standout collectibles from the 13th to the 21st century.

Many of the items are completely unique, including a miniature Harry Potter manuscript handwritten and illustrated by J. K. Rowling, and a set of autograph letters from J. R. R. Tolkien to his close friend George Sayer. There is also a one-of-a-kind jewelled binding of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry illuminated by the renowned Alberto Sangorksi, one of the early twentieth century's most highly regarded illuminators.

Pom Harrington, Owner, said: “ Our 50 Fine Items catalogue has been a much-anticipated fixture of our annual catalogue calendar in recent years, and we are proud to present this exceptional selection for 2021. The demand for rare books and manuscripts has remained remarkably buoyant in 2020, as collectors refocused their energies on building up their existing collections and pursuing new passions. As we look ahead to the coming year, we are excited to be in a position to present these rare works and expect them to find pride of place on the shelves of some of our most serious collectors.”

The catalogue presents a rich selection of works chronicling our developing knowledge of the world, including the most valuable item in the selection – a Latin edition of Ptolemaeus’ landmark geographical text the Cosmographia, one of the most influential books in shaping our understanding of the modern world (£450,000).

Other highlights include an important 18th-century atlas – used by English and American officers during the American Revolution; and the rare first edition of Galileo’s second published work which reveals his contemptuous outrage at the man who plagiarized his compass, his first significant scientific invention (£175,000). Collectors of rare travel books would also find of interest one of the most remarkable travel books of the Renaissance, a rare Latin edition of Varthema’s travel undercover through the Middle East, which documents the first recorded eyewitness account of Mecca in print.

The catalogue features several storied association copies, including a copy of Casino Royale inscribed by Ian Fleming to his friend Anthony Kemsley, the youngest son of Fleming’s employer Viscount Kemsley, who enabled him to write the Bond novels; John Lennon’s first book, signed by all four Beatles; a first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary documenting the friendship between two titans of New York business; and T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, inscribed to the financier of the edition.

Charting the rise of the novel, collectors will find treasures including one of the very first presentation copies of James Joyce’s Dubliners, inscribed to a young Triestine lady friend, as well as first editions of Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. The first edition of Cervantes’s epic prose romance Don-Quichote also appears in its first translated edition, along with other highly desirable collectible editions including rare first bindings of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (£300,000) and Walt Whitman’s great song of America Leaves of Grass (£250,000).