Works once part of a Scottish house library form a key part of Edinburgh auction

A spread from the ‘The Gladiator’, a long-running Scottish family journal of the late 19th century – £2400 at Lyon & Turnbull.

A small group of lots in a recent Edinburgh sale were once part of the library of the late 5th Earl of Lovelace at Torridon House.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

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Many of the house’s contents were sold a few years ago by Lyon & Turnbull (25/20% buyer’s premium) as part of the break-up of this extensive Wester Ross estate, but among lots offered as part of its January 31 book sale was a work by Charles Babbage that sold at £2600.

It was a slim, privately printed work of 1847 – one that had no obvious relevance to his well-known work on digital and programmable computing machines with Ada Lovelace.

Illustrated with two plates, one of them hand coloured, and bearing a gilt rendition of the work’s subject on the front cover of the binding, this was Observations on the Temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli near Naples, inscribed “Ashley Combe, 27 Sept. 1848, C.B.”.

Sold at £2400 was a long run of a privately produced journal called ‘The Gladiator’, though also known as the ‘Torridon Gazette’ and supposedly printed by Prutchkin & Co in the County of Ross.

Lithographed throughout and profusely illustrated, this bound run of 118 numbers (running to some 420pp in all) spanned the years 1884-92.

“The quality of the illustrations and the length of the contributions increase over the years”, said the cataloguer of a work that was almost certainly compiled “for private circulation only” by a member of the Darroch family.

Torridon House, now a hotel, was built for Duncan Darroch, Baron of Gourock, who bought the estate in 1873, and many of the stories and pieces of “fashionable intelligence” in ‘The Gladiator’ relate to members of the family. Often highly amusing, it provides a great insight into the life of a cultured family in a remote part of the Highlands in the 1880s-90s, added the cataloguer.

Knowledgeable bibliophile
The first 80 or so lots offered in this Edinburgh sale came from the library of John Bernard Dury (1917-2017), a businessman and exceptionally knowledgeable bibliophile whose special fields of interest included architecture and guide books on Roman antiquities in Europe.

Significant parts of his library were donated to King’s College, Oxford, but notable successes here included a 1651 or later, enlarged edition of Domenico Parasacchi’s Principali Fontane …di Roma, running to 44 engraved plates in all, at £2800.

Sold at £3000 was a rare work by Georg Blumnau. Printed in Vilnius (Lithuania) in 1648, vellum bound and illustrated with 11 engraved plates of experimental apparatus, was Dissertatio de Vacuo…

This was a work for which the auctioneers were unable to find any bibliographical or saleroom trace – though their extensive and detailed catalogue entry placed it into its historical and scientific context.

Also sold for rather more than anticipated, at £2000, was a 1634, third and revised edition of Sir John Harrington’s English translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso in period but rebacked mottled calf.