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Antiques PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Mullocks Rare Letters Auction

A rare and important group of manuscripts written by the famous literary figure Bishop Thomas Percy goes under the hammer in Ludlow early next month.

The group, including two original poems a number of letters and an original marriage certificate go for auction at Mullock’s next specialist sale of Historical Documents at Ludlow Racecourse on Thursday May 8th.

‘This is an important find,’ commented the auctioneers’ Historical Documents expert Richard Westwood-Brookes.

‘Bishop Thomas Percy is renowned in the literary world for his friendship with Dr Samuel Johnson and also for publishing the first of the great poetical ballad collections which was the one work most responsible for the ballad revival in English Poetry which led of course to the great poets such as Shelley, Byron and Wordsworth.

‘The majority of his papers are now in American Universities where his work is revered, and this group has come to light after it was found in a junkshop in Toronto, Canada back in the 1920s. It has remained in a private collection ever since.’

In one letter, Percy writes from the house in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, which still stands today, to a friend in London asking him to buy some books for his library from various booksellers in the Capital. He then asks for the parcel to be sent by the Bridgnorth Carrier ‘…who parks up at the Bear & Ragged Staff in Smithfield and sets out from thence ev’ry other week by 8 o’clock on Saturday mornings – NB ‘Tis kept by one Friar & any Parcel must be book’d…’

‘The marriage certificate is also of great interest as it is for the marriage of one George Durant – known in his day as the ‘King of Tong’ and one of the most notorious slave traders of the 18th c.

‘Durant made a fortune in the West Indies – and in one of the Windward Islands, virtually everyone had his surname, indicating that he had owned them as their slave master.

‘When he returned to England, he settled down at Tong – a village near to Bridgnorth – and used part of his fortune to rebuild Tong Castle. In 1773 he married a vinegar producer’s daughter and the present document is the original certificate of their marriage.’

Another of the Percy letters is also important because it actually mentions Dr Johnson.
In it, Percy writes that the next time he meets with Johnson ‘…I shall set before him a Piece of Letter Mr Lye, my neighbour has just received out of Sweden, full of admiration at his labours in the dictionary…’

The documents are set to make up to £600 each in the sale.