Adam Partridge Auctioneers Cheshire
Auctioneer in Cheshire

25/02/2015 : Tiny Rare Book Unearthed

An extremely rare miniature book which was discovered in Northwich is to be auctioned at Adam Partridge Auctioneers of Macclesfield.

The “Booke of Martyrs” by John Taylor is a 1627 abridgment in couplets of an original text by John Foxe published in 1563. Called “Actes and Monuments” but more commonly known as “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”, it details Christian martyrs throughout history, focussing in particular upon Protestant struggles under the Catholic Church. Martyrs mentioned include William Tyndale, the first person to translate the Bible into English, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533-1555, and Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, played by Mark Rylance in the BBC’s recent adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”.

This particular miniature book was the third edition, and there is only one other copy of this edition known to be in existence. It was one of the first printed examples of it being referred to as the “Book of Martyrs”, a title that John Foxe took umbrage with, adding this line when the second edition of the book was printed in 1570: “I wrote no such booke bearying the title Booke of Martyrs. I wrote a booke called the Acts and Monumentes”.

John Taylor, sometimes known as “The Water Poet” (a title he created himself), was a writer and boatsman, earning a living ferrying people across the Thames in London. He was a prolific writer with more than 150 publications, and became known for writing about journeys that he took, including traveling from London to Queenborough, Kent in a paper boat with two stockfish tied to canes for oars, described in his 1620 poem "The Praise of Hemp-Seed".

The Northwich-based vendor, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought the book, along with a mixed lot of other items, along to Adam Partridge Macclesfield’s weekly Monday valuation day, completely unaware of its value. The items had belonged to their mother who passed away in 1971 and had been lying in storage for more than 40 years. The book, which measures 1 ⅝ inches by 1 ¼ inches and is less than an inch thick, was discovered by valuer Fiona Young while sorting through the items, and she immediately knew it was special; “Despite the size of the book, it was clear that it had some age to it, and the distinctive dos-à-dos [meaning back-to-back] binding caused it to catch my eye. After doing research into the item, its rarity became apparent and we are looking forward to it going up for sale.”

The book will be sold at Adam Partridge’s Macclesfield branch on the 5th March and carries an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000. For details click here or call 01625 431 788.