Auction of Coleridge items, Christie's New York, December 8th

Auction of items from the Davidson Collection: important English and American literature
Christie's, New York, Tuesday 8 December.

Books, letters, manuscripts and various other documents, inoluding 35 lots relating to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

To see the illustrated catalogue, click here

Introduction below by James Vigus

The Davidson collection of Coleridge texts is outstanding in both quality and range. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was not only a poet but also a playwright, translator, and prolific writer on literary, philosophical, religious and political topics. All these fields are richly represented here.

Nearly all of Coleridge’s writing is now collected in the Bollingen edition, yet this collection boasts fresh manuscript material, including a late letter to Charles Lamb with an unpublished postscript. To anyone inclined to lend out their books, Lamb advised: ‘let it be to such a one as STC, who will return them [enriched,] tripling their value’. Coleridge delighted in writing notes in friends’ copies of his own books: a wonderful example here is Sophia Raby Gillman’s long-lost copy of Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection, an item of great importance to scholarship. He directs Sophia to a couple of pages in which ‘will be found my Creed as a Christian digested in Seven Articles.’

Other lots feature Coleridge’s handwritten revisions to his own poems; and there are copies of books owned by Coleridge, one delicious highlight being the edition of Rabelais that Coleridge annotated in preparation for his lecture on wit and humour in 1818.

There is an opportunity to acquire a rare first edition of Coleridge’s early, politically radical newspaper, 'The Watchman', many copies of which – as he ruefully recounted – were recycled as firewood.

Also from the mid-1790s is a very scarce, uncut copy of 'The Plot Discovered; or An Address to the People, Against Ministerial Treason', the format of which reveals much about the fast-changing political scene when Pitt’s ‘gagging acts’ curbed free speech. By 1809, when Coleridge embarked on 'The Friend', another precarious self-published periodical, he had ceased to believe in the efficacy of addressing ‘the people’, preferring instead a more foundational approach to the principles of morality and legislation. The complete set of 'The Friend' is an especially desirable lot.

Early editions of Coleridge’s tragedy, 'Remorse', and his translation of Schiller’s 'The Piccolomini', represent major aspects of Coleridge’s work that are generally lesser-known today. Lovers of Coleridge’s poetry will be thrilled: perhaps the most remarkable item of all is Coleridge’s extensively annotated copy of his 1817 collection 'Sibylline Leaves' containing, in addition to much else, Coleridge’s handwritten revisions to his poetic masterpiece, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.

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