For Sale: Hilary Mantel’s Writing Desk

Credit: @camerafirm

Hilary Mantel at her writing desk.

The desk on which Dame Hilary Mantel wrote her multi-award-winning Wolf Hall trilogy will be auctioned in London next month to benefit local literacy projects.

"It has served me well,” Mantel said, “and has a great record of turning out prize winners." The pine desk was a bespoke commission for the author produced by a Norfolk workshop.

Mantel wrote Wolf Hall (2009), Bring up the Bodies (2012), The Mirror and the Light (2020), and all her other novels since A Change of Climate (1994) at this desk. Mantel is saying goodbye to it as she and her husband, Gerald McEwen, are moving to Ireland and the desk will be too large for her new home.

According to Bonhams, the desk’s new owner will also find “some extras in the desk drawers, as mementoes of her illustrious writing career.” In an interview with the Guardian in 2007, she revealed that the drawers contained “half-used notebooks, fossils, crystals, seashore pebbles, a pack of tarot cards, my five-year diary, a steel measure, a stop watch and a last letter from a dead friend… solid slabs of blank paper, and office wet-wipes.”

The desk is conservatively estimated to make £1,000-1,500 ($1,250-1,880). Proceeds from the sale will go towards supporting literacy projects in schools in the Southwest of England where Mantel has lived and worked for many years, and where she is president of the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival.

“Covid restrictions and the loss of school days will only have made engagement in reading more challenging," said Annie Ashworth, the festival's artistic director, “and the proceeds from this auction will enable us to make a huge difference to children's lives and their futures.”

Other notable items in the June sale will include a 1922, Shakespeare and Company press copy of Ulysses by James Joyce sent to the editor of the London Mercury and a three-volume first edition of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, 1954-1955.