Richard Adams, author of the lagomorphic novel Watership Down, had a personal library many of us Reading Addicts would dream about. As a passionate bibliophile, Adams collected first editions, and rare manuscripts of his most favourite books from Shakespeare to Austen.
After his death at age 96 on Christmas Eve in 2016, his collection of books has been steadily examined and catalogued ready for auction in December 2017. Adams’ favourite book Emma by Jane Austen was amongst his collection- his copy being a rare first edition- and was well read and enjoyed by the author. Richard Adams was a true bibliophile; he did not keep his special and rare books locked away but knew they were there to be enjoyed.
Now thanks to his estate putting them up for auction they can be continued to be enjoyed.
The Watership Down author’s impressive collection of thousands of books includes a rare copy of the epic poem of Milton: Lycidas, Shakespeare’s Second Folio of 1632, a Bible that once belonged to King Charles II, and an array of first editions by 19th-century English novelists including George Eliot, Dickens, and Anthony Trollope.
Dominic Winter Auctioneers, which will sell the library on 14 December, has valued the author’s complete set of Jane Austen first editions at an amazing £60,000 to £80,000. The Lycidas is valued by the auction house at £50,000 to £70,000, while Shakespeare’s Second Folio may be worth up to £60,000.
Amongst the collection is a copy of Lord of the Flies inscribed to Richard Adams by William Golding himself: “Richard Adams spell binder extraordinaire”. It turns out that the two authors were friends and chess rivals.
Juliet Johnson, daughter of Richard Adams, wrote in an piece for Dominic Winter Auctions:
“Some of the first things he read were poems by Thomas Hardy, Treasure Island, much of Charles Dickens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that distressed him terribly and cast a long shadow forward to the evil slave trader Genshed in his own novel Shardik. With his undergraduate studies interrupted by war, he found the works of Jane Austen, and particularly Emma, a solace and mainstay – as did thousands of soldiers both before and after him. And so it went on all his life. To Richard, books were a consolation that broadened your horizons, told you truths about things most people in your life would brush under the carpet or have no experience of, and comfort you when things were bleak.”
“He never quite succeeded in imparting to us his own overpowering love of poetry – and when I became a teenager, his overemotional poetry reading was embarrassing and made me uncomfortable – but we shared his love of novels, and generally responded enthusiastically to these,” she said. “(Once he became a successful writer) he could at last afford to indulge himself and become a true bibliophile. Much of what he collected remained unknown to us until we found it on the shelves after his death. I think it is fair to say we had no idea he had so much. Collecting became almost an obsession.”
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