The David Stather Library, a remarkable private collection put together over a lifetime by an avid bibliophile, was sold in a single-owner sale at Tennants Auctioneers, North Yorkshire on 25th January. The collection reflected his overriding interests in history and the law, and each book had been lovingly preserved by Stather. The quality and rarity of the volumes in the library was reflected in exceptionally high prices across the sale and a 99% sold rate.
A central theme of the collection was the English Civil War, and the top lot of the sale was a group our forty-one Civil War Pamphlets, which sold for a surprise £16,000 (plus buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £400-600. Also selling well were a group of ten Yorkshire Civil War Pamphlets (sold for £3,800), and a letter from Sir Thomas Glemham (c.1594-1649) relating to the Siege of Carlisle in 1644 (sold for £2,000). The letter from the Royalist soldier and Commander-in-Chief of the four northernmost counties is thought to have been sent to Prince Rupert, and describes the siege, local opposition, and the difficulties in raising money for the subsistence of the Garrison.
A mid-16th century copy of ‘The Workes of Sir Thomas More’, which belonged to the Roper family, sold for £10,000. William Roper, or Rooper (1496-1578) was Thomas More’s son-in-law, who had lived in More’s household for 16 years having married his daughter Margaret. The title page is inscribed ‘William Rooper, the only true owner of’. Roper, originally from Kent, was a lawyer and member of Parliament and wrote a highly regarded biography of More. The book was passed down through the Roper family.
Further lots of note included one of the earliest items in the sale, an incunable printed in 1495 of the first English translation of the Vitas Patrum, often attributed to Saint Jerome, translated out of the French by William Caxton and printed by Wynkyn de Worde (sold for £9,000). A copy of The Great Bible printed by Edwarde Whitchurche in London in 1549 sold for £8,500 and a 1573 copy of one of the foundation texts of the Church of England by William Tyndale, John Frith and Dr Barnes sold for £8,000. With Pilgrim Fathers interest was a manuscript document of 1651, signed by Edward Winslow, a leader of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on The Mayflower to New England in 1620. The document, which sold for £4,000, dates from after his return to England in 1646, when he had joined the board of ‘The Committee of Sequestration and Advancement of Money and for Compounding with Delinquents’, which allowed Royalists whose estates had been confiscated during the Civil War to pay a fine to recover them, so long as they pledged to not take up arms against Parliament.
One of the most eagerly anticipated sections of the library focused on intriguing early books on witchcraft, which certainly caught the eye of bidders and produced some of the top lots of the sale. Highlights included Reginald Scot’s 1584 first edition of ‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft…’ and the 1665 third edition of his ‘The Discovery of Witchcraft’, which sold for £6,000 each, and a 1615 copy of Jakob Spenger and Henricus Institoris’ ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ bound together with four other volumes, which old for £5,500.
David Stather (1940-2022) was a lawyer who’s early interest in history and books was sparked during his school days at Pocklington School, near York. It was during this time that he discovered Spelman’s, a renowned antiquarian book shop in Micklegate, York, where he was advised by Ken Spelman himself. After a career in private practice and in legal aid, his retirement years in Wilberfoss, near York, afforded him the time to devote himself to local historical research and to his antiquarian books. He rescued many worthy books in a forlorn state and had them bound in befitting style, taking great pleasure in ensuring their continued survival for centuries to come.
The David Stather Library Sale achieved a total hammer price of £272,570, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate with an impressive sold rate of 99% for the 228 lots.