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The Independent Online
A 19th-century French reusable condom, 8 1/2 in long, made from animal membrane with a yellow silk pull-string and maker's envelope inscribed 'moisten before using', is in Christie's South Kensington's scientific and medical sale, Thursday (2pm). The pounds 200- pounds 300 estimate is a snip: a satirically illustrated 18th-century condom made pounds 3,300 at Christie's two years ago. Since then, at least five more have penetrated the salerooms and prices have drooped. Another, a mere 7in long, is est pounds 150- pounds 200. The same sale has a lady's fainting wand with electroplated barley-twist stem and feathers on the end. The feathers were ignited to smoulder under the lady's nose: est pounds 150- pounds 250. There are ear trumpets, surgical instruments, terrestrial globes.

PLAYING AWAY

Sotheby's annual sale of early musical instruments, Thursday (10.30am) has the perfect gift: a mute violin. Intended for discreet practice in the early 19th century, it has no body and only a tiny sound hole. Est price: pounds 700- pounds 1,000.

The 18th- and 19th-century flutes in the sale have a lower pitch than those of today. The 'A' to which orchestras now tune vibrates at 440Hz (cycles per second) compared with 390Hz in the Renaissance. The quest for brightness of tone is to blame: military bands at the turn of the century pushed the vibes up to 455Hz. Today's 440Hz is the result of international agreement. A Richard Potter late 18th-century flute (est pounds 1,200- pounds 1,600) has three extra joints of slightly different lengths because in those days pitch could vary from town to town.

BEST OF THE REST

The sale of lace, costume and needlework at Christie's South Kensington, Tuesday (2pm) has two dozen voluminous and voluptuous original Victorian ladies' dresses est mostly in the pounds 150- pounds 300 range.

A much-vaunted pair of letters written by Oscar Wilde to a hitherto unknown lover, Philip Griffiths, are in Christie's South Kensington's sale of books and letters, Friday (11am). A reference to 'golden hours passed together' is about as rampant as they get: ests pounds 1,000- pounds 1,500 and pounds 4,000- pounds 6,000. More arousing: the artist Millais's embroidered smock, pounds 1,000- pounds 2,000.

A collection of more than 3,000 books on London, dating from the 16th century, at Sotheby's Thursday (10.30am). Ests from pounds 100. Toys at Phillips Bayswater, Tuesday and Wednesday (12 noon daily).

COUNTRYWIDE

Edinburgh: Antiques and fine art at Royal College of Physicians. Tuesday (2pm) jewellery; Wednesday (11am) Wemyss ware, rugs, furniture; Thursday (11am) silver and (6.30pm) paintings and drawings, including Scottish colourists (plenty of minor Fergusson oils, pounds 2,000- pounds 3,000). Christie's (041 332 8134).

Shifnal: Remaining contents of Perton Orchard, including furniture, paintings, porcelain, silver and two Rolls-Royces, of 1978 and 1929, at the Park House Hotel, Thursday and Friday (10am daily). Walker, Barnett & Hill (0902 773531).

Derby: Sports clothing, footwear, outdoor pursuit clothing, luggage at cattle market next Saturday (9.30am). Richardson & Linnell (0332 296369).

Birmingham: Die-cast vehicles, model trains, dolls, Friday (11am). Biddle & Webb, Ladywood Middleway (021 455 8042).

St Peter Port: Three Guernsey salerooms offer a private cellar of wine, Monday (2.30pm) before sale of furniture and fine art, Tuesday (2pm). Bonhams and Hamptons Martel Maides, Allez Street Salerooms (0491 641010 or 071-584 9161).

Ilkeston: Car spares and accessories dealership, Wednesday (10am). New Kensington Auction Centre, Hallam Fields Road (0602 442022).

FAIRS

Olympia: Fine Art & Antiques: prices pounds 25 to pounds 200,000, loan exhibition from Dulwich Picture Gallery, Wednesday- Tuesday (071-370 8211).

Contemporary Print Show: Barbican, originals for sale, many in the pounds 50- pounds 150 range, until 2 Dec (071-629 3749).

Dolls 'n' teddies: London International, Kensington Town Hall tomorrow, (081-693 5432).

Countrywide: Antiques Trade Gazette (071-930 4957) and Government Auction News (0686 668851, hotline 0891 887700).

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