Estimated pounds 100-pounds 150, the bookplates are among 76 lots in Sotheby's English literature and history sale, Monday (10.30am), being sold on behalf of the Royal Society of Literature's appeal for funds for the upkeep of an 18th century cottage in the Mendip Hills, left to it by the Russian-born novelist E M Almedingen, as a writers' retreat. The cottage would, presumably, be equally serviceable as a retreat from irate booksellers.
Other gems among the charity lots: Evelyn Waugh's telescopic ear trumpet, also donated by his son Auberon, which Evelyn ostentatiously closed during a speech by Malcolm Muggeridge at a Foyles's literary lunch: est pounds 400- pounds 600. Roy Jenkins, biographer of Asquith, has donated one of the prime minister's walking sticks (pounds 80-pounds 100). The publishers Chatto and Windus have rid themselves of a fine, grumpy letter by Joseph Conrad, complaining: "No doubt many writers can shake 50,000 words out of their sleeve in their spare time,but I have not that facility" (pounds 400-pounds 600). And what estimate has been put on Leslie Thomas's donation of his own 500-page revised typescript of his novel Arrivals and Departures? pounds 100-pounds 150. Ahem.
The greatest joy of Christmas past was that children never realised how boring it really was. Take the Victorian scrap albums in Bonhams' Chelsea sale of toys, dolls and teddies, Wednesday (12 noon): they are filled with paper push-outs of birds, animals, soldiers and circuses. Today's parents and teachers would condemn such things as mindless, along with trading cards and Pogs.
With what resignation did the Edwardian brother and sister George and Doris Strathon accept a stack of pop-outs and a blank, 200-page, leather- bound album gilt-embossed with their names, the date 1902 and the inscription "from Uncle Sparks"? Now filled, it is estimated pounds 400-pounds 600. There are still some coloured sheets of pop-outs concealed in the album box. Pop and paste, pop and paste: did the wretched siblings eventually succumb to exhaustion?
In the past three or four years, printed ephemera has risen in value. Grown-ups intent on creating a paper picture of the Victorian age buy such albums for their idealised vision of the times: happy children with rosebud lips, skating on ice with hands in fur muffs; military field gun crews in swanky, authentic uniforms. Never mind if the elephants were misshapen. In those days, not everybody lived near a zoo.
Christmas shoppers with a few hundred pounds left should visit Christie's South Kensington's collection of 30 colourful, romantic and original Aubusson textile designs of the late 19th and early 20th century, in the British watercolour, drawing and print sale on Wednesday (10.30am). A design for a firescreen, showing three maidens in sylvan setting is est pounds 300-pounds 500; a design of mixed flowers for a chair back pounds 100-pounds 200. Do not get carried away, however: the 30 designs in last November's sale fetched 50-75 per cent above estimate.
There are also four robust coloured prints in the style of Rowlandson, two by Alken, two by Gillray, neither of whom had any need to copy someone else's style. One of the Alkens, showing a leg amputation, was no doubt hilarious in its day: est pounds 200-pounds 400 the lot.
A full listing of auctions countrywide appears on pages 26-27.
John WindsorReuse content