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The weird, wonderful and beautiful at Bonhams Book Sale
A rare copy of Les Delassements d'Eros, a book of erotic art by Gerda Wegener, estimated at £800-1,200. Photo; Bonhams.

LONDON.- A renowned collection of rare books, many in unique bindings, goes under the hammer at Bonhams Books and Manuscripts sale in London on 16 March. The collection is being offered in some 130 separate lots which are expected to sell for a total of up to £150,000.

Highlights include:

· A spectacularly macabre copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe bound by Susan Allix with a plastic hand holding the skull of a rabbit and a dagger and quail’s skull. It is estimated at £1,000-1,500.

· A rare copy of Les Delassements d'Eros, a book of erotic art by Gerda Wegener, wife of painter Einar Wegener, who is better known as Lili Elbe one of the first-ever documented recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Their story is the subject of the recent Oscar nominated film, The Danish Girl. The estimate is £800-1,200.

· A book of original aquatints of modern Brighton by the British artist John Piper published in 1939 with an introduction by Oscar Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, bound in goat skin by Susan Alllix. It is estimated at £6,000-8,000.

· Copies of Oscar Wilde’s Salome and the Ballad of Reading Goal, the latter bound in black goat-skin with Prisoner C 33 embossed on the cover. This is a reference to early edition of the book in which the author was identified simply as ‘C33’ after his block, cell and prisoner number in Reading Goal. The two books form one lot with an estimate of £1,000-1,500.

They were owned by the book lover Denis Collins who commissioned many of them from some of the country’s leading ‘designer bookbinders’, including the book artist Susan Allix. Collins and Allix both believed passionately that custom-made bindings could transform a book into a work of art in its own right. They forged a close working relationship over more than 30 years, ending only with the death of Denis Collins in 2015.

Bonhams senior book valuer, Simon Roberts said, “Denis Collins’s collection is well-known for its wit and originality. As a book collector, he became frustrated at the often poor quality of bindings and took matters into his own hand, commissioning craftspeople such as Susan Allix to produce bindings which are works of art in themselves. His firm conviction was that great books could be enhanced by great bindings.”

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