Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ultimate Literary Ephemera

In 1987, the literary agency A. P. Watt Ltd sold at Sotheby's a portion of the archive of their founder, the first professional literary agent Alexander Pollock Watt (d. 1914). It included a selection of over two hundred letters from the literary greats of the day, all addressed to A. P. Watt including by such as W. B. Yeats, Jerome K. Jerome, Walter Besant, Thomas Hardy, Hillaire Belloc, Marie Corelli, Bret Harte, Mrs Oliphant, Samuel Butler and Arthur Conan Doyle. The lot was estimated at £1200-1500 and sold for over £3100. I suppose there's little doubt today that the estimate would be £20,00 or £30,000 at least.

But among the other lots from A. P. Watt Ltd were those pictured above, perhaps the best ever auction lot of literary ephemera. These deed boxes were the companies own receptacles for letter and other documents relating to their work with various authors. Some of the lots still contained letters or documents but, for me at least, the main appeal of these is as a cracking object. They all sold, more or less on estimate between £150 and £250.

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