A signed book by Mark Twain sold for £20,000 at the Cheffins Library Sale on 28th April, against an estimate of £400 - £600.

Consigned from a deceased estate, the copy of Mark Twain’s Sketches – New and Old, is inscribed with the words, ‘To Dr John Brown, with the love of Mark Twain, (Otherwise Samuel L Clemens) Hartford, Dec. 1875.’ Dr John Brown is believed to have been doctor who treated Twain’s wife in Edinburgh during his UK tour in 1873. The book saw strong competition from bidders across the USA and Europe, and eventually sold to a collector in the Far East.

Other highlights from the 440-lot sale include £34,000 paid for five volumes of John Gould’s The Birds of Great Britain, dated 1873, which sold to a collector based in the USA. Another lot which saw keen interest was a rare cookery and medicinal recipe book dating back to 1690, consigned from a deceased estate, it achieved £6,500 against an estimate of £800 - £1,200 and was sold to a UK specialist.

Among the more modern lots, a collection of signed and inscribed first editions by Penelope Lively, Susan Cooper and Jan Mark from the 1970s and 1980s sold for a healthy £4,400, against a modest estimate of £100 - £150, also to a specialist UK buyer, and an inscribed first edition copy of Watership Down by Richard Adams in original dust jacket sold for £2,800, against an estimate of £600 - £800, to a buyer based in the USA.

Charles Ashton, Director, Cheffins, says: “The result for the Mark Twain book just goes to show the importance of a famous author’s personal inscription. Should the book have not been signed, I would have only expected it to have achieved in the region of the low hundreds. The book saw major competition, particularly as Twain had signed it with both his real name and his pseudonym, which really added to its rarity and desirability amongst collectors. The market also appears to be seeking out more modern first editions, with the results for the Watership Down copy and those by Penelope Lively and Susan Cooper achieving well above their estimates as examples from the 1970s onwards start to draw younger buyers.”

Auction: The Library Sale – 28th April from 11am
Location: Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge, UK, CB1 7EA