Lear Alphabet Manuscript and Wasp in a Wig to be Auctioned

Letter P

The Norman and Cynthia Armour Collection of Fine Children’s Books is to be auctioned by Christie’s in New York on 27 April 2005. Among the items there will be the manuscript of a nonsense alphabet. Here is the description for lot 94:

LEAR, Edward (1812-1888). Autograph manuscript for a pictorial nonsense alphabet, ca 1857. 26 separate leaves for each letter of the alphabet, each with large letter in ink at head, a pen-and-ink drawing at center and a quatrain with envoi at foot. Folio, written on blue paper with watermarks “Joynson” or crowned oval with Poseidon at center, each sheet with contemporary linen backing. With added sheets at end to form an album, containing three ink-wash sketches on two leaves of a duck and her young, a rabbit, and a goat and her young; and six hand-colored oval portrait etchings of children, these last sheets watermarked “Smith & Meynier Fiume.” Contemporary half roan, marbled boards (spine mostly perished); modern red quarter morocco folding case. Provenance: Ida Nea Shakespear (signature on flyleaf); sold Sotheby’s London, 20 April 1971, lot 543.

Lear wrote the manuscript during his stay in Corfu and presented it to Ida Nea Shakespear. The drawings and verses are similar to others which have appeared at auction and which Lear published. The most recent appearance at auction for a similar alphabet was at Sotheby’s London, 22 July 1980; this example was prepared for the Tennyson family circa 1855. Two printed examples can be found in Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets.

The well-traveled Lear is known to have visited Corfu on numerous occasions, first in 1848, having left Italy when the political situation there became unstable. He next went there in 1855 with Franklin Lushington, whom he’d met in Malta in 1848, though he spent most of this trip there alone and became depressed. His third trip to Corfu was over the winter of 1857. Other trips there were made in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1877. According to Vivien Noakes, Lear made a number of these delightful alphabets for children up to 1870 (see Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, London, 1985, p. 173).

Other Lear items of interest: William B. Osgood Field’s Edward Lear on My Shelves. Privately Printed [by the Bremer Press, Munich], 1933 (lot 96, $1,500-2,500) and two lots (95 and 97) of Lear or Lear-related books.

Wasp in a Wig

Also up for sale will be the (still controversial?) galley proofs for the Wasp in a Wig episode:

When they came to light at auction in 1974, after missing for over a century, the “discovery” of the present set of proof sent shock waves throughout the world of Carroll scholars and admirers alike. After fruitless attempts of finding any trace of the suppressed material, the draft was presumed lost, and some Carroll scholars even doubted it ever had ever existed. In 1977, the episode was published, with Mr. Armour’s generous permission, by the Lewis Carroll Society of America. The publication prompted an enormous amount of attention, and numerous articles surrounding the publication of the lost episode appeared in the U.K. and America press at the time…

They are expected to fetch between $50,000 and 70,000.

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One Response to Lear Alphabet Manuscript and Wasp in a Wig to be Auctioned

  1. Pingback: An Edward Lear Unpublished Alphabet | A Blog of Bosh

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