Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2018 Issue

Lord John Kerr (1927-2018)

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Editor's Note: The following remembrance of Lord John Kerr has been prepared by his friend and colleague, Rupert Powell.

 

 

Lord John Kerr, one of the true doyens of the antiquarian book world, died peacefully at his home in Oxfordshire aged 90 on 3rd May.

 

After briefly serving with the Scots Guards from 1944-48, Lord John read English at Oxford and then, following a brief flirtation with insurance at Lloyds of London, decided to join the antiquarian book world and was employed by Jaques Vellekoop at E. P. Goldschmidt. He owned Sanders of Oxford from 1958 to 1963 and was then persuaded by Anthony Hobson to move to the “other side” of the trade and join Sotheby’s. He ran the enormously successful Book Department there for some 18 years before founding Bloomsbury Book Auctions in 1983 with ex-Sotheby’s colleagues Frank Herrmann and David Stagg. This remarkable triumvirate presided over a much-loved and respected firm for 17 years – Frank providing the commercial brains, Lord John the gravitas and knowledge, and Stagg the drive and energy. Lord John was also a brilliant auctioneer, a point acknowledged by numerous members of the trade who wrote glowing tributes to him in an Album Amicorum, produced in the style of a Bloomsbury orange catalogue, on his retirement in 2002. His quiet authority in the often-frenzied atmosphere of an auction was reassuring and persuasive, committing many a bidder to go “just one more” with a tilt of his head and a charming smile. He was unflappable, courteous and quick with dryly humorous remarks when appropriate. In the days when buyers’ names were announced on the fall of the hammer, to one frustrated trade bidder who did not know the buyer of a string of lots and loudly challenged Lord John on the rostrum: “Who’s that? Blackrock?”, the gentle but firm reply came: “Barkworth, sir.” And then, a fraction later, ”His bark worth than his bite.”

 

At one auction in the 1970s Lord John was tasked with introducing the (then 10%) buyer’s premium to the book world and, as a result, the entire ABA membership present staged a theatrical walk-out from the saleroom. He duly conducted the sale to a much-depleted room, the trade members having left a few discreet sentinels to observe proceedings and, more importantly, to execute commission bids on their behalf!

 

Bloomsbury was a vibrant and happy ship, sailing under the watchful eye of the snuff-taking, bewhiskered “Admiral”, Lord John. It was also a family affair, with his beloved wife Isabel (who pre-deceased him by a few years) running the subscriptions and mailing lists, and son Andrew (of Bennett & Kerr) lending his support with weekly attendance to catalogue and assist on sale days. The ultimate testament to Lord John’s influence over his staff is the fact that many of them still work together and, most significantly, in a similarly blended atmosphere of scholarship, kinship and fun.

 

I like to think that Lord John has now joined Frank and Stagg in that great auction-house in the sky. As Lord John sidles up to the other two, Stagg looks up, glances at his watch, and then says sarcastically, “Oh, there you are.”

 

Many of us owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for the kindly and erudite way he introduced us to and helped us grow in the book world. Even more will remember him with the utmost respect and affection. RIP Lord John.

 

Rupert Powell,

Deputy Chairman Forum Auctions

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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