More than 10,000 books and other items from the library of the late Christopher Foyle of Beeleigh Abbey in Essex will go under the hammer at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in September 2023 and January 2024 sales.

The collection includes items of national and international significance that were not part of the famous Christie’s sale of The Library of William Foyle held in July 2000. 

Christopher Foyle, entrepreneur, philanthropist and moderniser of Foyle’s famous bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road, died in August 2022. He was the grandson of William Foyle, the bookshop’s founder. When his aunt Christina died in 1999 and left instructions that the library should be sold, Christopher and his wife Cathy took the decision to buy back as much of the library as they could before it went up for sale.

Christopher was particularly keen to recover items that had a close association with his beloved grandfather. 

The items now offered for sale from Beeleigh Abbey comprise: the thousands of books, manuscripts and other items that Christopher bought back from his grandfather William’s collection, books from Beeleigh Abbey Books, Foyle’s Bookshop rare and antiquarian book business, which was managed from the Abbey, books added to the collection by Christopher in his lifetime particularly reflecting his interests in aviation, travel and archaeology, items that have been rediscovered at Beeleigh since Christopher’s death including a collection of early 20th century books, signed by their authors and dedicated to William Foyle. 

The majority of the items offered for sale will be books, most beautifully bound with the bookplate of William Foyle, including hundreds of early editions of English literature, history, topography and travel. The collection also includes miniature books, illuminated medieval and rare Tudor manuscripts, seals, and authors’ letters, as well as significant paintings and drawings.

Christopher continued to collect books up until his death, some of which never made it into the main library and were discovered squirreled away in cupboards and under a vast model railway layout. 

One highlight from the first portion of the library to be offered for sale on 27 September 2023 (Part Two will be offered for sale on 31 January 2024) is a historically important document signed at the head by Queen Mary I (estimate: £15,000-£20,000). It is an appeal for reinforcements to be raised for the defence of Calais, signed ‘Marye the Quene’ on the day on which the city fell to the French.

“Letting you wite, that having certaine knowledge that our ennemys of Frannce ar[e] p[rese]ntly w[t]h great puissance and force arryved at our toun of Callays, and do besiege the same whereby it is in gret distress and dannger except succours be most spedely sent, forasmuch as that pece is a principal member and chief jewell of our realme Although we have p[rese]ntly sent such relief as we hope shall suffice for the souders yet for the more surete, and the better to p[er]mit for all events, we have appointed to leavye of our good loving subjets a convenient armye out of hand.”

The recipients Lord North and Sir Giles Alington, both Commissioners for Musters, were required to raise and equip a force of four hundred ‘good and able sould yours’ in the county of Cambridge. Among other instructions, the soldiers were to be given conduct money and uniforms of ‘white cotes with red crosses after accustomed manner of this our realme’.

However, the Queen’s appeal for reinforcements to be sent to the French coast at the beginning of January 1558 was too late and the ill-provided garrison fell to the Duke of Guise on 7 January.

Other highlights include:

  • Six Books of Hours, all from the library of Christopher’s grandfather William Foyle. Beeleigh Abbey belonged to the Order of Premonstratensian or White Canons, and there are a number of books, manuscripts and documents, including one manuscript psalter here dating from c. 1450-1475, that reflect this connection (estimate £7,000- .£10,000).
  • A sammelband of 27 English Civil War pamphlets mostly relating to the siege of Colchester, Essex, 1648 (estimate: £5,000-£8,000).
  • A selection of fine copies of travel books bought at the Sotheby’s sale of the Library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching in 2014-15, including the three volumes of Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah by Sir Richard Burton (first edition, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855-56, estimate: £5,000-£8,000).
  • A collection of 16 Cosway-style bindings, including Napoleon and the Fair Sex, translated from the French of Frederic Masson, first edition in English, (London: William Heinemann, 1894), finely bound in red full morocco by Bayntun Rivière, Bath, estimate: £1,000-£1,500.

Printed catalogues for Part I will be available from 11 September (and online 3 days prior). Pre-publication printed catalogue orders for both parts can be bought at a discounted price: £30 (UK), £40 (Europe) & £60.

All enquiries to: Specialists in charge: Nathan Winter & Chris Albury