Last month, my Dad Bruce wrote about a new London-based auction house called Forum Auctions, a venture by Stephan Ludwig, the founder of Bloomsbury Auctions. Forum describes themselves as London's specialist auction house for antiquarian books and manuscripts, 20th century literature, modern & contemporary art and editions, Old Master prints and drawings, photographs and other works on paper. This month marks their maiden sale, a two-day event dubbed Fine Books and Works on Paper, with 189 lots for sale on Day One, July 13th, and another 175 lots coming on Day Two, July 14th.
Day One is all about modern publishing, with sections for literature and illustrated books. The sale opens with one of the finest and most complete collections of English writer Evelyn Waugh ever to come to market, which includes the first edition of every book published by him, many of which are inscribed to close friends, as well as numerous limited editions and unpublished letters. The standout lot here has to be lot 30, an inscribed first edition of A Handful of Dust (1934), one of the author’s greatest works. This copy has the rare dustjacket, as well an inscription of extra rarity with no recipient, reading, “Do read this if you have time. I think it is better than the others.” The estimate is £10,000-15,000.
Two other lots I want to bring your attention to under literature are lots 84 and 88. Eighty-four is a first edition of Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung [Metamorphosis] (1916), one of the most important and influential novellas of the 20th century and also one of the few works by Kafka published during his lifetime. It’s estimated £3,000-4,000. And while Kafka’s work is appealing, lot 88 is on a different level when it comes to rarity. Eighty-eight is the autograph manuscript of Vladimir Nabokov’s final and unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, albeit in a format you might not expect unless you are a studied collector of Nabokov manuscripts. Forum explains in their description that the author’s preferred method of composing a novel was by writing on index cards as they allowed him to easily move sections around. This manuscript is composed on 135 cards. Included under the estimate of £60,000-80,000 is also a first English edition of the published work (2009).
Day One closes with modern illustrated books, featuring another private collection with books from several of the leading private presses, with contributions from important 20th century artists such as Paul Nash, Eric Gill, Eric Ravilious, and Kyffin Williams. Major works from the Doves and Ashendene presses, as well as unique designer bindings by the bookbinder Lester Capon, are also for sale. One highlight of the section is lot 120, Sir Thomas Browne’s Urne Buriall and the Garden of Cyrus, considered the masterpiece of the Curwen Press. The book is significant because of artist Paul Nash’s contributions with 32 pochoir plates and illustrations. This limited copy (182 of 215) is estimated £3,000-5,000.
Day Two of the sale offers antiquarian books and works on paper across a range of disciplines. The financial meat of the sale lies here, with several lots printed by Aldus in the late 15th and early 16th centuries carrying estimates reaching six figures. These lots are:
- Lot 205, Pietro Bembo’s De Aetna dialogus (1495), an extremely rare first edition, which is also the first Aldine printed in Latin only. Estimated £100,000-150,000.
- Lot 212, Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), a first edition of the most famous illustrated book of the Renaissance. Estimated £80,000-120,000.
- Lot 255, Marcus Tullius Cicero’s Epistolae familiares (1502), one of four known copies on vellum, also extremely rare. Estimated £150,000-200,000.
Rounding out the books section are first editions of Voltaire’s Candide (lot 276, est. £20,000-30,000) and Descartes’ Discours de la Methode (lot 269, est. £35,000-45,000), three illustrated editions of Aesop (lots 208, 214, and 228), and a first edition of Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables Choisies (lot 248, est. £40,000-60,000).
The sale closes with Old Master prints from a private collection featuring four works by Albrecht Dürer (lots 337, 338, 339, and 340), an early proof impression of Robetta’s Adoration of the Magi (lot 342, est. £2,000-3,000), and an exceptional copy of Michele Marieschi’s etched views of Venice (lot 343, est. £40,000-60,000). Other highlights include Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s Picturesque Ideas on the Flight into Egypt (lot 364, est. £40,000-60,000), and an impressive set of seven engravings by William Blake illustrating Dante’s Inferno (lot 374, est. £30,000-50,000).
Forum Auctions has set the bar high with their first upcoming sale by acquiring some very rare and important material for sale. The two-day event for Fine Books and Works on Paper begins on July 13th at 2 PM British Summer Time at the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, London. The second day of the auction also begins at 2 PM on July 14th. Catalogs for the two days are separately listed online:
If you plan on bidding, whether it be live in person, online, over the phone, or by absentee bid, registration is required.
Please refer to Forum’s website for any further questions or to get in touch with the auction house.