‘Masterpieces’ from the celebrated collections of Dr Martin Schøyen offered at a recent Christie’s (25/20/13.5% buyer’s premium) sale in London included some real rarities.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay
They included, at £60,000, a copy of Hamlet that was an eighth edition of 1683, but one that had been annotated for rehearsal and as a prompt copy by a contemporary actor.
The notes are thought very likely to have been made by Thomas Betterton (1635-1710), the greatest Shakespearian actor of his day.
In 2004 this copy had been sold in the same rooms for £32,000, as part of the important literary collections of Mary Hyde Eccles.
A copy of the fourth, and earliest obtainable edition of Pericles, dated 1619 and part of a first attempt at a collected edition of the plays planned by Thomas Pavier – four years before the appearance of the First Folio – sold at a record £35,000. In 2007 it had sold in the same rooms for £8500.
Just a little more expensive, at a record-equalling £38,000, was the ex-Duke of Roxburghe copy of the first and only quarto edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen, printed by Thomas Cotes in 1634.
This play was not included in any of the great folio editions but it was later recognised that it was Shakespeare who had contributed a couple of acts to John Fletcher’s play based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, rather than his usual co-author, Francis Beaumont. In 1991 this rarity sold for $7000 at Sotheby’s New York as part of Richard Manney’s library and in 2011, at Christie’s, reached £26,000.
The record is shared with a copy sold as part of the library of Hugh Selbourne at Bonhams in 2015.
As well as Shakespeare, the December 11 sale included rarities by five of the other ‘six pillars’ of literature on whom Schøyen focused much of his collecting energy: the Bible, Gilgamesh, Homer, his fellow Norwegian Henrik Ibsen and Goethe.
Extract measures up well
A Bonhams New York (27.5/25/20/13.9%) sale of December 5 had also offered a few Shakespearian attractions.
Among the 83 English literary lots that made up the Stan Battat collection that opened proceedings was a first printing of Measure for Measure.
In the form of a 24pp extract from a 1623 first folio, it was trimmed at the margins and showed some repairs, but bound in modern panelled calf it made a record $42,000 (£32,305).
Illustrated on the catalogue cover was a copy of the first separately published and first quarto edition of Macbeth, but though valued at $80,000-100,000 it failed to sell.
While undoubtedly a great rarity, this was a copy that as recently as 2016 Bonhams had sold in its Los Angeles rooms for $60,000.
Then it was offered as the property of Charlton Heston, who had played the role on stage and on live television a number of times.
Estimated at $4m-6m, a Shakespeare first folio is to be sold by Christie’s New York in April (News, ATG No 2426).