Sotheby's Is Auctioning These Rare Tolkien Illustrations

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British auction house Sotheby's is gearing up for a huge sale of "antiquarian books and manuscripts from an English country house" December 9. The collection includes several items that you'll wish you could have for your library.

Detail from John Blanche's Battle of Five Armies via

For everyone who doesn't have tens of thousands of spare British pounds to fling about, the whole catalog is up online for drooling purposes. Represented are all-stars like Shakespeare, Dickens, Beckett, Joyce, Dylan Thomas, William Blake, letters from Gandhi, and a bunch of Winnie the Pooh illustrations, but some of the nerdier highlights include:

Two gorgeous Tolkien illustrations by John Blanche, including the rather timely Battle of Five Armies from The Hobbit.


Three uncorrected J.K. Rowling proofs (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, autographed by "Jo;" and two copies of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). For Potter fanatics with extra deep pockets, there's also a complete set of all the books ("each a presentation copy or signed by the author"), plus "other volumes and ephemera," like a pair of tickets from the first Potter film's world premiere in 2001.

Oliver Cromwell's copper gilt coffin plate, "finely engraved, originally placed on Cromwell's breast, bearing the arms of the Protectorate on one side, the reverse with an inscription in Latin." Talk about a conversation piece. The plate was said to be recovered in 1661, when Cronwell's body was exhumed for posthumous execution.


Several lots for Ian Fleming devotees, including a set of ten first-edition James Bond novels and a first-edition, first-issue copy of Casino Royale.

Gilt-embellished first editions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.


Various collections of patent applications, including a 75-piece collection of submissions by Nazi-bankrolled computer pioneer Konrad Zuse.

"A rich and detailed archive demonstrating the meticulous planning of the D-Day landings," which includes some rad-looking military maps with strategy notes scribbled in the margins.


A first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, one of the auction's most valuable items, with an estimated sale price of $62,000-$94,000.