News | December 19, 2022

Unique English Civil War Private Collection to Auction

Courtesy Tennants Auctioneers

Detail from Reginald Scot’s 1665 The Discovery of Witchcraft

The David Stather Library, a remarkable private collection put together over a lifetime, is to be sold in a single-owner sale at Tennants Auctioneers, North Yorkshire on January 25. The books have been lovingly preserved by Stather and the auction provides a rare opportunity to purchase books from a very focused collection.

The library reflects David Stather’s overriding interests, history and law, and comprises a large collection of early books, pamphlets and manuscripts with the majority dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. A central theme of the collection is English history, with a focus on the English Civil War, the ‘Popish Plot’, the Monmouth Rebellion and the Glorious Revolution. Interestingly, many are books that contributed to English history rather than just reported on it, for example the collection includes books reporting the Popish Plot, which were written specifically to create social division through what is now known as ‘fake news’. Other subjects covered in the Library include early Parliament and the Monarchy of that period, the development of English law, the Reformation, early bibles and prayer books, and intriguingly some very early books on

One of the highlights of the sale is a mid-16th century copy of ‘The Workes of Sir Thomas More’, which belonged to the Roper family (estimate: £8,000-12,000/$9,800-14,700, plus buyer’s premium). William Roper, or Rooper (1496-1578) was Thomas More’s son-in-law, who had lived in More’s household for 16 years having married his daughter Margaret. The title page is inscribed ‘William Rooper, the only true owner of’. Roper, originally from Kent, was a lawyer and member of Parliament and wrote a highly regarded biography of More. The book was passed down through the Roper family.

Further notable volumes in the sale include ‘The Great Bible’ by Edwarde Whitchurche ‘at the Signe of the Sunn’ in Fleetstreet, London in 1549 (estimate: £4,000-5,000/$4,900-$6,100), and Reginald Scot’s 1665 ‘The Discovery of Witchcraft: Proving That the Compacts and Contracts of Witches with Devils and all Infernal Spirits or Familiars, are but Erroneous Novelties and imaginary Conceptions…’ (estimate: £3,000-5,000/$3,700-$6,100).

The earliest item in the sale dates from 1285 and is a charter for a three year lease made by Sir Henry de Lacy of Dukesworth to Mark Red, relating to property in Scarning and Gressenhall, Norfolk (estimate: £300-500/$367-$610).

David Stather (1940-2022), was a lawyer who’s early interest in history and books was sparked during his school days at Pocklington School, near York. It was during this time that he discovered Spelman’s, a renowned antiquarian book shop in Micklegate, York, where he was advised by Ken Spelman himself.

After a career in private practice and in legal aid, his retirement years in Wilberfoss, near York, afforded him the time to devote himself to local historical research and to his antiquarian books. He rescued many worthy books in a forlorn state and had them bound in befitting style, taking great pleasure in ensuring their continued survival for centuries to come. No one handled books with greater care than David, a bibliophile to the end of his days.