There is no-one more passionate about books than Jim Spencer – a man who has put Staffordshire on the map when it comes to great finds.
It was Jim, head of the Books and Works on Paper Department at Hansons Auctioneers, who uncovered a hugely rare copy of the Wealth of Nations at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, last September.
He spent hours searching high and low for something special, even looking up chimneys, utterly convinced the hall would reveal hidden treasure. It did.
He said: “At the 11th hour, I discovered a first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, published in 1766. It was in a cupboard beneath a silver cabinet where the family stored hymn books and boxing gloves.
“It was a magical moment for me. I had to catch my breath when I saw it. It sailed above guide price at auction to fetch £65,000.It’s one of Jim’s most remarkable finds to date but there have been several. Hansons’ quarterly Library Auction of Books and Works on Paper has been making headlines around the world with its unusual offerings – such as a 300-year-old sex manual - and breaking records with its hammer prices.
Jim said: “I’ll never forget the Medieval illuminated manuscript Psalter that arrived in the post just 30 minutes before a catalogue was going to print, with a note stating ‘it's probably nothing, but I forgot to show you when you visited the house’. It sold for £5,800.
“In my last Library Auction, I was confident a manuscript night-watchman’s journal dating from the 1830s would race past its guide price of £300-400. It sold to a private UK collector for £2,100.
“As for curiosities, a cased sets of prosthetic glass eyes, found in Lichfield, made £3,200.”
Hansons Auctioneers hold free valuations (except seasonal closures) every Monday, 10.30am-12.30pm, at the Hedgehog Inn, Stafford Road, Lichfield, WS13 8JB. To find out more, email [email protected].