Roy Davids, head of the Manuscripts and Books department at Sotheby's for many years, built up what must be the most significant privately-owned collection of poets' manuscripts and memorabilia. This collection is now going under the hammer at Bonhams in London, with roughly half the lots having been sold in April and the rest coming up this month.
For the higher-value lots in the sale on April 10 there were bids from China, France and the US as well as UK institutions. The manuscript for Charlotte Brontë's "I've been wandering in the greenwood"-written when she was 13 on the back of a 3x3in scrap from a letter in script so small that it can be read only with a magnifying glass-sold for £92,450, a new world record for the author. The manuscript of Keats's "I stood tiptoe upon a little hill"-likely to be the last of his poetical manuscripts ever to come up for auction-set another record, fetching £181,250. Those with more modest budgets need not be put off. Many lots in the May sale, especially photographic portraits of poets by Mark Gerson and others, have estimates in the hundreds.
All images are taken from the catalogues for “The Roy Davids Collection, Part III, Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts & Portraits of Poets”. The second half of the auction (Poetry: L-Y) will take place at Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London W1 on May 8 at 1pm.