Important acquisitions

Catalogue of an extensive & valuable library of economic, historical and general literature.

Author Hodgson & Co. [Auctioneers]
Title Catalogue of an extensive & valuable library of economic, historical and general literature.
Imprint London: [Hodgson & Co.],
Date of Publication 1904
Language English
Notes Auction sale catalogues may not at first sight seem particularly interesting but the stories that lie behind them often are. This catalogue was produced for the sale in London in 1904, between May 9th and 13th, of the "property of a gentleman" - a substantial library covering mainly trade and commerce. The books on sale included several early works on Scotland, America and the West Indies, works on tobacco, and a large number of 17th-century books of the Civil War and Commonwealth periods. The "gentleman" in question was J.T. (James Taylor) Bell of Glasgow. Bell was a senior partner in the tobacco firm of J. & F. Bell, founded by his father and uncle in the mid-19th century, which manufactured Three Nuns tobacco and Three Bells cigarettes. The company ran into severe financial difficulties in the early 1900s and went into voluntary liquidation in early 1904. At the bankruptcy court in Glasgow in October of that year, the sorry state of Bell's finances was revealed. James Taylor Bell himself owed the company 12,000, and, as a means of reducing his debts, he revealed that he had had his library of c. 9000 volumes valued and then sold. He admitted that he had spent over 11,000 acquiring his library but that the Hodgson's sale in May had only realised 2,000, leaving with him a loss of 9,000. This particular copy of the sale catalogue reveals all the details of the sale; it has been neatly annotated in ink with the prices realised for each lot in the sale. The name of the London booksellers Francis Edwards is inscribed on the front pastedown which suggests that it belonged to an employee of the firm who attended the sale. Most of the c. 1700 lots in the sale sold for very modest prices, rarely going above the 1-2 range. The apparent lack of interest in Bell's library is in stark contrast to the prices realised for 15 lots of old English literature, owned by a separate collector, which were sold at the end of the third day of the sale. These books attracted far higher prices, most notably 230 for a "clean and perfect copy" of the London, 1598 edition of George Chapman's translation of Homer's "Iliad".
Shelfmark RB.s.2796
Reference Sources The Scotsman "Failure of a Tobacco Manufacturer"(article October 15 1904).
Acquired on 30/04/10
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