Rare early Biggles paperback flies again at Norfolk sale

A rare early Biggles paperback, sold for £750 at Keys.

An unexpected star turn of a recent Norfolk sale was a job lot of works from the library of the late Ron Fiske of Morningthorpe Manor, an East Anglian collector whose books a Norfolk auction house first started dispersing a few years ago.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

A rare early Biggles paperback, sold for £750 at Keys.

Estimated at £50-75 in the Keys (20% buyer’ premium) sale of February 13-14 but sold for £4000 after a contest between two local collectors was a lot in which the key item, I am told, was a 24pp typescript: ‘Catalogue of Pictures, Statues, Busts, Old China… at Wolverton’.

The saleroom described this half calf bound item as probably copied from a manuscript of c.1850 by the Hon Frederick Walpole of Rainthorpe Hall, near Norwich, and lotted it with four other items either bearing Walpole’s bookplate or of related interest.

That illustrated in the catalogue was Lady Dorothy Neville Mannington and the Walpoles, Earls of Orford, an illustrated Fine Art Society publication of 1894.

Another ex-Morningthorpe lot that made a far higher than suggested sum in selling at £1050 was Occasional Reflections in a Journey from London to Norwich and Cambridge. Published in 1711 and containing illustrations by H Baldwin, the subject matter of this slim work in later blue paper wrappers has in the past been described as “an early pub crawl”.

Biggles in the Great War

The rare Biggles lot, published in November 1935 by the Boy’s Friend Library, features a collection of a dozen stories based on the exploits of the Royal Flying Corps in the years 1914-18.

They had appeared almost a year earlier in issues of the magazine Modern Boy but were here issued in paperback form as Biggles in France.

Though some of the stories were adapted and re-written for Spitfire Parade in 1941, the originals were not re-published in their entirety, and in unchanged form, until 1993. And it was not until 2009 that a limited edition hardback version appeared.

Surviving copies of the original paperback have not tended to age well, but its rarity saw this example sell in Norfolk at what must surely be an auction-record £750.