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These remarks have reference to the results of the auction sales of the season regarded as a whole, and are not applicable to particular sales or special incidents. On the contrary, this 18th volume of Book-prices Current is replete with information of the greatest importance gathered from all the noticeable sales that were held between October, 1903 and July, 1904. On page 208 will be found a full description of the celebrated Milton Manuscript, and this in years to come will doubtless be turned to as being most readily accessible. On pages 482-524 a very full report is given of the extensive Library of Economic Literature sold by Messrs. Hodgson. Though the books in this collection were not uniformly in the best condition, and though the prices realised were not sufficiently high to invest the sale with supreme importance on that account, the Library was of such an unusual character that a lengthy notice of it became a necessity. The report will no doubt be found useful, as it gives the titles of a large number of books difficult to trace under ordinary conditions.
The most important sale of the season was that of the Library of the late Rev. Walter Sneyd, of Keele Hall, Staffordshire. Many of the manuscripts in this collection were of exceptional quality and interest, one of them realising no less than ,£2,500, though it could easily be placed on the palm of the hand. In fact, the manuscripts accounted for more than half the total sum realised, and ten of the most important will be found described on pages 164 and 165. The Miscellaneous Sale held by Messrs. Sotheby on April 18th and five following days (pp. 372 et seq.) realised more than £ \ 1,000, and must be regarded as the principal sale of the season, if printed books only are taken into account. Several very interesting works collected by the late Mr. W. G. Thorpe, of the Middle Temple, were included in it, notably, a fine copy of the original edition of the "Imitatio" of Thomas a Kempis and the first Hymn Book of John Wesley. More important than either, from a literary point of view, was the original warrant for the arrest of John Bunyan, which, it is said, Mr. Thorpe secured for a trifling sum. Other entries of permanent value will be found scattered throughout the volume.
The greatest care has been bestowed upon the Indexes, and though it is not claimed that these are or ever can be immaculate, it is probable that very few mistakes will be found. Should one be discovered in either Index, it can as a rule be corrected by reference to the other, it being hardly possible that the same mistake could occur in both. It will be noticed that the headlines to the volume have been made more precise and distinctive than formerly, so that there should now be no difficulty in following any particular sale from its commencement to the end.
Following the usual practice, I give a table of averages since 1893, when the system was first introduced :—
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ S. d.
1893 ... 1 67 1894 ... 1 85 1895 ... 1 ir 4
1896 ... 1 13 10 1897 ... 2 13 9 1898 ... 2 15 o
1899 ... 2 19 5 1900 ... 2 6 2 1901 ... 3 7 10
1902 ... 3 3 4 1903 ... 3 2 10 1904 ... 2 9 3
From this it will be seen that the average for 1904 is considerably less than it has been since 1896, if the abnorm.il year of the Boer War be left out of the calculation. To account for this, it is only necessary to bear in mind that the state of trade has been in anything but a satisfactory condition for some time past, and that books are usually the first to feel the evil effects resulting from a general scarcity of money. There may be other and more powerful reasons, but this appears to me to be the most plausible.
J. H. SLATER.
September 30///, 1904.
TABLE OF THE SALES BY AUCTION
Cawthorne ... ... 1 Jan. 14, ,,
Chambers (Sir Geo.) Feb. 2, ,,
Collector's Library, A ] Nov. 26, 1903
Corfield ;June 10, 1904