A striking Louis XVI gueridon (lot 34) was the top performer at last week’s two-day Oxford Library Sale, making more than 20 times top estimate. This small, ornate table featured a circular serpentina verde marble top with pierced ormulu border, and three bronze supports with lion mask ring tops and paw feet. Highly contested amongst both phone and online bidders, it eventually sold to an overseas telephone bidder for a staggering £21,000.
Also proving popular on day one of the sale was lot 152, a late 18th/early 19th century carved elm unicorn, mounted on a lead base and standing 50cm high. Estimated at £300-£500, the hammer eventually fell at £1800 to a UK phone bidder.
Making £2200, just over top estimate, was lot 173, a 17th century, Scottish basket hilt broad sword with an 84cm long blade, which went to an online UK bidder.
One of the more unusual items featured in day one was a 57cm long, Victorian, model oak coffin presented in a glazed display case and made for Boswell and Sons, Theale (lot 128). Estimated at £80-£120 it clearly piqued a macabre interest amongst bidders and the price soared to £2200, with the successful top bid coming from a UK phone bidder.
Day two focused on antiquarian and modern books and lot 642 - ‘the Gurwood Papers’ - was just one fascinating lot featured in the sale. This five-book set contained a chronological collection of approximately 300 well-preserved, handwritten letters, written during the late Georgian and early Victorian era by three notable historical figures - Lt. Col. John Gurwood, Lady Maria Fitzherbert, and Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Estimated at £2000-£4000, the set was highly contested and eventually sold for £5200.
Another book which out-performed its estimate was ‘The History of Godefrey of Boloyne and of the Conquest of Jerusalem' (lot 407), finely illustrated by William Morris and produced by his printing company, Kelmscott Press, in Hammersmith 1893.
The Kelmscott Press was Morris’s last great artistic venture and his respect for traditional craftsmanship, search for perfection in design and love of literature all came together in the books produced by his printing company. This book was gifted to Camberwell Public Libraries by Morris’ wife and included a dedication inside ‘Given by Mrs William Morris in memory of her husband 1897’.
Estimated at £400-£600, the winning bid of £3200 came from a UK phone bidder.
Another lot of note was lot 655, ‘Afghanistan - Secret - 1880 – 1884’ which contained a series of printed memoranda for the use of government offices relating to campaigns and political issues in Afghanistan and India. This lot sailed past its £200-£400 estimate, with a final hammer price of £2300.
Overall, the auction was highly successful with total sales of £308,000, a 97% sell rate and more than 1600 registered online bidders. Mallams’ sale specialist, Duncan Lloyd, said “The sale was very well received due to it being curated from several interesting private estates with a wide selection of curiosities.”
Mallams Oxford is now inviting entries for its April Jewellery, Silver and Watches Sale and its May Design + Modern Art Sale. If you have any items you are considering selling at auction please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, informal valuation.
All prices are subject to a 30% buyers' premium (VAT inclusive).