Lord Byron rare books and memorabilia

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:37:45

Lord Byron rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to British Romantic poet George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824).

Brief History/biography

Byron is regarded as one of the best British poets. His major works are long narrative poems Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan, as well as shorter poems She Walks in Beauty, So, we’ll go no more a-roving, and When We Two Parted. Byron represented in his time typical aristocratic excesses, such as vast debts, self-imposed exile, numerous love affairs, and rumours of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister. Many believe he suffered from manic depression or bipolar disorder. He travelled much in the East, including fighting against the Ottoman empire for Greek independence, and he is still revered as a Greek hero. The figure of the Byronic hero, the idealised but flawed character in his writings, is to a certain extent similar to Byron the man, and he is considered to have been the first modern-style celebrity, rock star-esque, with huge public interest in him, gossip and rumours surrounding him, and great self-aware personal promotion. Along with Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, Byron was one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement.

Types of rare books and memorabilia

Books

Christie’s

  • Letters and journals of Lord Byron (1857), 20 volumes, sold for £14,100 in July 2000.
  • The Bride of Abydos, a Turkish Tale (1813), first edition, inscribed by Byron. Sold for $17,625 in May 2001.
  • English bards and Scotch reviewers (1811), first edition, inscribed b y Byron. Sold for $15,600 in December 2005.
  • Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1841), lovely binding with textblock edge watercolour paintings. Sold for $13,750 In December 2010.
  • Don Juan (1819-21, 1823-24). Cantos I-XVI (complete). First editions in original boards. Sold for $10,575 in October 2001.
  • Works (1832-1833), 17 volumes uniformly bound, sold for $8,400 in October 2005.

Sothebys

  • The Corsair (1826), Giambattista Gigola illustrated, sold for $37,500 in April 2012.
  • A group of 14 Byron volumes, chiefly first editions. Sold for $9,000 in December 2004.
  • Don Juan (1819-24), original boards, new edition complete. Sold for £4,375 in July 2010.

Documents, Autographs etc

Bonhams

  • Handwritten manuscript of Byron’s poem ‘Farewell to Malta’, signed with his initial, dated May 26th, 1811. Sold for £17,400 in March 2011.
  • Autographed letter signed B to Francis Hodgson written whilst getting the first two books of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage ready for publication. Sold for £13,145 in September 2004.
  • Four letters from Byron signed, 1823, sold for £10,000 in November 2011.
  • Handwritten letter signed Byron to Michele Leoni, 1818, sold for £9,375 in November 2011.
  • A George III 18 carat gold snuff box by Alexander J. Strahan, engraved ‘the gift of George Lord Byron Aug 13 1812 to F. T. Sold for £6,960 in November 2007.

Christie’s

  • Proof left for The Bride of Abydos (1813), with six lines of handwritten verse. Sold for $17,625 in May 2001.
  • Handwritten letter signed (1814), with revisions for a new edition of The Corsair. Sold for $16,730 in December 2004.
  • Gold ring bought by Byron for use as a gift during travels, but given to Lady Charlotte Campbell. Sold for £8,625 in November 1997.

Sothebys

  • Series of autograph letters from Byron to Francis Hodgson discussing poetry, love, religion and revolution. Sold for £277,250 in October 2009.
  • Handwritten letter signed to John Taylor, signed, sold for £13,750 in July 2012.
  • The Byron Vase circa 1816-7, painted by Thomas Baxter, a vase with head and shoulders portrait of Byron. Sold for £12,000 in November 2005.

Guide for collectors

As the first ever ‘celebrity’, Byron’s letters, journals, and personal items were collectible even before his death. All of these are highly prized, and very valuable, as can handwritten copies of his works, and first editions inscribed to his friends and contemporaries – themselves often interesting literary or historical figures.

Byron’s works, being classics of English literature, are often chosen as projects for a beautiful binding or to showcase an illustrator, even in some cases for beautiful textblock edge paintings. So, while early editions of the works will be extremely valuable, often a much later copy possessing one or more of these other attractive attributes will also be particularly sought-after. However, to find those rare copies in their original bindings: delicate paper boards or publisher’s cloth, is a very valuable find.

His works are often sold together with those of his friends and contemporaries, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as representative of an era in literature.

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