London: Sotheby & Co., 1939-1953. First Edition. Large 8vo. 35 catalogues plus printed prices realized and buyers' names bound in 3 vols., green buckram, all original wrappers bound in (J.S. Wilson, Cambridge, binders). Altogether 10,260 lots described. Illustrated issues of the catalogues where called for (Nos. 3, 12, 22, and 23 were only issued plain) save No. 4 and No. 5. Bindings with some scuffing, other signs of use and annotations by one one of the most formidable English bibliographers of the twentieth century. Very good. Item #3242
A.N.L. MUNBY COPY of the sole record of the vast library of Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth, extraordinarily rich in Americana and British rarities, with all the printed lists of prices and buyers' names, and the supplement catalogue of omitted / returned books published later. Rarely found complete with all 35 Parts plus the Supplement, as here.
Harmsworth was an indefatigable collector of English literature (his John Bunyan collection was probably the finest ever assembled by a single individual), important Bibles and prayer books, Lewis Carroll, and -- most importantly -- valuable Americana. Of the latter portion, Harmsworth was voracious, particularly for an Englishman; indeed, eighteen of the thirty-five Sotheby's sales were devoted to it. The Americana Manuscripts portion alone (24-25 May 1948) can only be described as "ridiculous." During the course of just ONE DAY Sotheby's auctioned an extensive MS featuring 38 watercolors of high quality of Mexican, Texan, and California Indians by J.-L. Berlandier (GBP 420 to Quaritch); the original MS of the Catechism drawn up at the third Mexican Council in 1585 which preceded the official Roman Catechism (GBP 155 to Maggs); the MS Diary of a staff officer of the Cherokee Expedition of 1781 (GBP 120 to Robinson); a 5-page document from the eldest son of Christopher Columbus to Charles V asking for the King's approval to colonize the mainland, offering to convert all the Indians within 10 years and make them pay tribute (GBP 360 to Maggs); the day-to-day Log Book of H.M. Surveying Sloop Beagle kept during Darwin's famous voyage to South America (GBP 270 to Capt. Oderra); the original 1597 MS by Sir Arthur Gorges of his voyage to the Azores Islands which was later published by Purchas (GBP 185 to Robinson); an ALS from Sir John Harvey, Governor of Virginia, dated 1634, which is probably the first letter written from America in reference to the "new" colony of Maryland (GBP 250 to Robinson); a 397-page journal written by the Head of the Commission from England to enforce the Stamp Act which describes all the events before and after the 1775 Stamp Act Rebellion (GBP 230 to Driscoll); a holograph MS by Bartolome de Las Casas to Charles V, ca. 1519, describing the barbaric treatment and enslavement of the Indians by the Spanish Conquistadores (GBP 520 to Driscoll); and much, much more. The remaining seventeen portions of printed and manuscript Americana coined by a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, namely: "Shock and awe."
"Beginning in 1939 and continuing into 1953, the extraordinary library of Sir. R. Leicester Harmsworth was sold by Sotheby's of London. Sir Leicester (1870-1937), who lived during the golden age of valuable and important book acquisition, was a man born to meet the challenge of investing in materials of breathtaking scope" (quoted from the list of Book Sources in Rare Book Hub). We are informed by the editors of RBH that they have recorded less than half of the 10,260 lots in the thirty-five Harmsworth sales, or 5,068 lots to be exact, thereby necessitating the possession of all thirty-five printed Harmsworth catalogues, with the prices and buyers' names, as here.
The provenance of our set is notable and desirable: A.N.L. Munby (1913-1974) was "a prolific and graceful writer, a brilliant bibliographer, and an accomplished scholar. In works ranging from a book of ghost stories to erudite writings on bibliographical matters and his five-volume masterpiece on the life of Sir Thomas Phillipps he demonstrated depth of knowledge and keen wit." (Sid Berger in DLB vol. 201, p. 232). Inside the front covers of each of the three volumes is affixed Munby's bookplate; below this, in MS, he has very usefully enumerated the contents within each volume. They are:
1. English Literature 1641-1785, A-K. 27 March 1939;
2. Ditto, L-Z. 8 May 1939;
3. Voyages, Travel, Atlases. 28 June 1939;
4. English Lit. from 1785. 25 Oct. 1944;
5. Emigration. 23 April 1945;
6. MSS. 15 Oct. 1945;
7. Prayer Books. 28 Jan. 1946;
8. Bibles. 8 July 1946;
9. [John] Bunyan. 27 Jan. 1947. Tipped inside the front cover is a notice by Percy Muir in the "Sunday Times" (19 Jan. 1947): "Please for Bunyan Treasures"
10. Lewis Carroll.
11. European Books A-D. 7 July 1947;
12. Reference Books [i.e. Bibliography]. 20 Oct. 1947. ADDED: Quaritch's typewritten report to Munby (wrongly addressed to him at Trinity College) concerning his bids. Overall, his limit amounted to only about 40% of the aggregate price realized; consequently only 4 out of 28 bids were successful. Q's note in MS: "Better luck next time."
13. European Books E-L. 15 Dec. 1947;
14. Ditto, M-Z & Addenda. 15 March 1948;
15. Americana, MSS. 24 May 1948;
16. Ditto, A. 29 Nov. 1948;
17. Ditto, B-Canada. 21 Feb. 1949;
18. Ditto, Ca-Cz. 11 July 1949;
19. Ditto, D-E. 5 Dec. 1949;
ADDED: extract from Sotheby's 19-20 Dec. 1949 catalogue, specifically lots 111-260, containing the generally overlooked but still essential "Supplemental Portion" of the Harmsworth Library;
20. English Lit., partly theological. 20 March 1950;
21. Americana F-G. 1 May 1950;
22. Ditto (Hawaii, Polynesia &c.) 13 June 1950;
23. English Pamphlets. 13 Nov. 1950;
24. Americana H (20 Nov. 1950).
25. Americana I-K. 5 Feb. 1951;
26. Bound Pamphlets. 7 March 1951;
27. Americana L. 21 May 1951;
28. Ditto, M. 22 Oct. 1951;
29. Ditto, N-O. 21 Jan. 1952;
30. Ditto, Pamphlets. 7 April 1952;
31. Ditto, P. 9 June 1952;
32. Ditto, Q-R. 27 Oct. 1952;
33. Ditto, S. 9 Feb. 1953;
34. Ditto, T-V. 13 April 1953;
35. Ditto, V-Z; books omitted from previous sections. 30 Nov. 1953.
Added: Catalogue of Books Omitted or Returned from Previous Sales, 1954 (wrappers).
Market comparables: it has been fifteen years since a complete set of the Harmsworth Library sale catalogues was offered at auction, namely the J.R. Abbey -- Bernard Breslauer copy (Christie's 22 March 2005, lot 361). Surely the provenance of our copy equals it.
Blogie III, cols. 116-118, 129, 130, 133 (containing only 10 of the 35 parts).