Robert S Pirie collection and auction

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Noted bibliophile Robert S. Pirie (1934–2015) focused his collecting on English literature before 1700. His book and manuscript collection was auctioned at Sotheby's New York 2 December–4 December 2015, in the Property from The Collection of Robert S Pirie Volumes I & II: Books and Manuscripts sale. The Folger Shakespeare Library acquired forty five at the sale and through Sotheby's immediately afterwards. See the series of blog posts on The Collation for descriptions of the sale written by Folger staff members. See the news item by Culture24 for information about the Pirie manuscripts acquired by the Bodleian Library.

We will try to keep this article up-to-date if and when additional material from the Pirie Sale is acquired, but our database of record remains Hamnet, so please go to if you are looking for something in particular formely owned by Robert S. Pirie, but not listed here.

List of lots acquired at the Pirie sale

The following lots were acquired by bidding during the auction. Note: this is a rough list, with unedited working descriptions.

9. Adams, Frank. Writing Tables with a Kalender for XXIIII yeeres, with Sundry Necessarye Rules. London: Printed by James Roberts, for Edward White, and Are to be Sold at the Little North Dore of Paules, at the Signe of the Gunne, 1598 / possible woman's hand View on Sotheby's website

55. Bacon, Francis. Cont. ms. of the poem "The World's a Bubble", a four-stanza version apparently transcribed by Thomas Everard, 1 leaf, ca. 1625. View on Sotheby's website

81. Embroidered binding. Andrews, Lancelot. A Manual of the Private Devotions... London, 1648. Late 17th century English embroidered binding. Wing 3135. View on Sotheby's website

125. Burghley, (William Cecil) ALS to the Earl of Essex, concerning Sir Walter Raleigh, 21 May, 1597. View on Sotheby's website

191. Corkine, William. Ayres to Sing & Play. Part I. London, 1610; part II, London, 1612. Modern wrappers. Only copy known of first issue, part I. STC 5768. View on Sotheby's website

201. King, William. Poems of Mr. Cowley and others. Composed into Songs and Ayres. Oxford, 1668. Folio, red morocco, Wing K543 View on Sotheby's website

242. Devereaux, Robert. A.L.S. signed Essex to Maurice of Nassau re: Antonio Perez (Shakespeare's Antonio) View on Sotheby's website

252. Digby, Sir Kenelm. A Ms. Poem. ca 1620. View on Sotheby's website

337. Dugdale, William. Autograph letter signed, to Guibon Goddard. (in Warwickshire) neere Coleshill, 17 June, 1657. View on Sotheby's website

349. Embroidered binding. Unused, ca. 1610 View on Sotheby's website

351. Now or never, a new parliament of women. London, 1656. 8pp. Small 4to. Vellum. Huth copy. Wing N 1434; Mercurius Melancholicus. Ding-Dong, Or Sr. Pitifull Parliament, On his Death-Bed. [London]: 1648. Vellum. Wing D1495 View on Sotheby's website

353. [Etherege, Sir George]. Killigrew, Peter - a.l.s. to his sister re: opening night of "The Man of Mode". 2pp. 14 March 1675. View on Sotheby's website

368. Feilde, Henry. Ephemeris Chirographorum. [England ca. 1642]. Caligraphically ornamented ms. of numerous important texts, letters and verse by the same scribe as the Merton ms. of Donne's Sermons at the Bodleian. View on Sotheby's website

421. Harington, Sir John. Autograph ms. translation of Book VI of Virgil's Aneid. Cont. vellum gilt with arms of James I. View on Sotheby's website

430. Herbert of Cherbury. A.L.S. to Charles I. 8 May 1626, 2 pp. folio. Ex. coll.: Gilvary. See Klinkenborg & Cahoon, British Literary Manuscript I, 30 (illustrated). View on Sotheby's website

450. Heywood, Thomas. Ms. verse translation of Ovid's De Arte Amandi. Circa 1620. Oblong octavo, contemporary calf. View on Sotheby's website

474. Howard, Sir Robert. A.L.S. to Thomas Clifford about his poem "The Duel of the Stags". 26 July, 1668. View on Sotheby's website

583. Milton, John. Of Education. London, 1644. Modern morocco. Wing M2132. View on Sotheby's website

687. Ray, John. Dictionariolum Trilingue. London, 1675. Contemporary red morocco. Charles II's copy. Rebacked. Wing R391. View on Sotheby's website

702. Rowlands, Samuel. The Knave of Harts. T.S. for J. Bache, London, 1612. First edition(?). 4to. Full blue morocco. This printing unrecorded in STC. See STC 21390 and 21391 for two other printings. (This copy now 21390.5.). View on Sotheby's website

748. Sidney, Sir Philip. Astrophel & Stella. London, 1591. Modern full morocco. 2 leaves in facsimile. STC 22537. View on Sotheby's website

755. Southampton, Earl of. A.l.s to Lord Spencer (ca 1624). View on Sotheby's website

763. Spenser, Edmund. Prothalamion. London, 1596. Modern blue morocco by Riviere. Frank Hogan copy. STC 3224. View on Sotheby's website

773. Stradling, Sir John. Beati Pacifici, A Divine Poem. Pres. Ms. to James I, signed by the author, 1622. Ex coll. Lord Kenyon. View on Sotheby's website

774. Stuart, Lodowick, Duke of Richmond and Lennox. Autograph letter signed, to Lord Herbert of Cherbury about the Spanish marriage, 3 October, 1623. View on Sotheby's website

827. Walsingham, Sir Francis. Ms. letters and dispatches, 11 Aug. 1570 to April 1573, cont. vellum (c. 1600). Published in 1655 as The Compleat Ambassador. View on Sotheby's website

844. Wentworth, Peter. [A pithie exhortation to her majestie for establishing her successor to the crowne] View on Sotheby's website

943. [Commelin, Jerome]. Rerum Britannicarum. Heidelberg: [Apud Hieronymum Commelinum] 1587. With Stationers' Company wardens and clerk signatures. View on Sotheby's website

967. Rubens, Peter Paul. Rubens, Philip, Electorum, libri II. Antwerp, 1608, Contemporary calf. With coat of arms of Henry Prince of Wales. British Museum duplicate. View on Sotheby's website

977. Van Dyck, Sir Anthony. Icones Principium Virorum. Antwerp, c. 1660-1690, cont. black morocco gilt by the Barlow's Aesop binder. Narcissus Lutrell's copy. View on Sotheby's website

List of lots acquired immediately after the sale

The following lots were purchased through Sotheby's in the after sale.

207. Cowley, Abraham. Autograph Letter Signed, To An Unnamed English Lord Then Resident In Poland View on Sotheby's website

348. Elizabeth, Queen Of Bohemia. Autograph Letter Signed, To Charles I ("My Onelie Deare Brother") View on Sotheby's website

485. James II. Letter Signed, As Duke Of York ("James"), To Horatio, Lord Townshend, Vice Admiral Of The County Of Norfolk View on Sotheby's website

503. Killigrew, Sir William. Autograph Letter Signed, To Sir Robert Howard View on Sotheby's website

554. Marvell, Andrew. Autograph Letter Signed At The Head ("Andr: Marvell"), To Sir Henry Thompson View on Sotheby's website

610. Newcastle, William Cavendish, Duke Of. Autograph Letter Signed ("W: Newcastle"), To An Unnamed Dutchman View on Sotheby's website

614. Nottingham, Charles Howard, Earl Of (Lord Howard Of Effingham). Autograph Letter Signed ("Notingham"), To Dr Julius Caesar, Judge Of The Admiralty View on Sotheby's website

670. [Puttenham, George]. A Justificacion Of Queene Elizabeth In Relacion To The Affaire Of Mary Queene Of Scottes View on Sotheby's website

785. Taylor, John. A Cluster Of Coxcombes, Of A Cinquepace Of Five Sorts Of Knaves And Fooles: Namely, The Donatists, Publicans, Disciplinarians, Anabaptists, And Brownists; Their Originals, Opinions, Confutations, And (In A Word) Their Heads Roundly Jolted Together. [London]: Printed For Richard Webb, 13 July 1642 View on Sotheby's website

787. Taylor, John. A Reply As True As Steele, To A Rusty, Rayling, Ridiculous, Lying, Libell; Which Was Lately Written By An Impudent Unsoder'D Ironmonger And Called By The Name Of An Answer To A Foolish Pamplhet Entitled, A Swarme Of Sectaries And Schismatiques. [London: S.N.], 1641 View on Sotheby's website

789. Taylor, John. A Tale In A Tub Or, A Tub Lecture As It Was Delivered By My-Heele Mendsoale, An Inspired Brownist, And A Most Upright Translator. In A Meeting House Neere Bedlam, The One And Twentieth Of Decembler [Sic], Last, 1641. London: S.N., Printed 1641 [1642] View on Sotheby's website

793. Taylor, John. The Fooles Of Fate: Or, The Unravelling Of The Parliament And Army [Four Stanzas Of Verse]. [London: s.n.], Printed In The Yeer, 1648 View on Sotheby's website (NB. Sotheby's site has wrong image)

794. Taylor, John. Nonsence Upon Sence: Or Sence Upon Nonsence, Choose You Whether, Either Or Neither ... The Third Edition, With Addition, Upon Condition, That (By Tradition) The Reader May Laugh, If Hee List. In Longitude, Latitude, Crassitude, Magnitude, And Amplitude, Lengthened, Widened, Enlarged, Augmented, Encreased, Made Wider And Sider, By The Addition Of Letters, Syllables, Words, Lines, And Farfetch'D Sentences ... Written By John Taylor At The Sign Of The Poor Poet'S Head In Phoenix Alley, Near The Middle Of Long Acre, Or Covent Garden. [?London: s.n., ?1651] View on Sotheby's website

806. Trussell, John. Raptus I. Helenae. The First Rape Of Faire Hellen. Done Into A Poeme, By I.T. Imprinted At London By Richard Johnes, At The Signe Of The Rose And Crowne Next Above S. Andrewes Church In Holborne, 1595 View on Sotheby's website

958. Medici, Marie De'. Letter Signed ("V[ot]re Bien Bon[ne] Cousine Marie") To The Earl Of Holland (Henry, 1St Earl Of Holland) View on Sotheby's website

List of lots acquired subsequently

The following lots from the Pirie sale are now in the Folger collection, but were not acquired as part of the sale itself.

79. Bible. New Testament. Greek. Tēs Kainēs Diathēkēs hapanta = Novi Testamenti libri omnes. Editio nova accurata. Londini : Ex officina Rogeri Danielis, 1652. Wing B2730 View on Sotheby's website

121. Autograph letter signed from Sir Thomas Browne, Norwich, to Sir William Dugdale, 11 December 1658. With autograph notes on draining land in Holstein. View on Sotheby's website

139. Autograph letter signed from William Camden, Chesilhurst, to Sir Michael Stanhope, 7 August [1614?]View on Sotheby's website

205. Abraham Cowley, A vision, concerning his late pretended Highnesse Cromwell, the wicked. Wing C6695. View on Sotheby's website

224. The treasurie of auncient and moderne times, with Edward Gwynn binding. View on Sotheby's website

484. Order to pay Roger Aston for delivery to the King for the expenses of his journey to England. Whitehall [manuscript], 31 March 1603. View on Sotheby's website

Acquisitions Night 2016

On March 18, 2016, items from the Pirie sale took center stage at Acquisitions Night, the Folger's annual fundraiser for collection development. Everything acquired at the sale or immediately afterwards was displayed in the Reading Room, and made available for "adoption."

Acquisitions Night 2016: Treasures from the Robert S. Pirie Collection was supported by:


Twiss and Patrick Butler

Maygene and Steve Daniels

Professor Adele S. Davidson

Elizabeth H. Hageman

Maxine Isaacs

Colonel David E. Johnson, PhD. and Ms. Wendy Frieman

Dr. Carole Levin

Deborah C. Payne

Mary Jane Ruhl


D. James Baker and Emily Lind Baker

Patricia Fortini Brown

William J. Camarinos

Angela Scott

Louise H. Engle

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur F. Fergenson

The Folger Five

Ty and Joni Joseph

Faith Lambert

Dr. Kathleen Lynch and Mr. John C. Blaney

Wes MacAdam

Theodore and Mary Eugenia Myer

Gail Kern Paster

Ms. Valerie Elizabeth Powell

Mr. and Mrs. Erik M. Rasmussen

Winnie and Alexander Robinson

Allan and Kim Stypeck

The Rhoda and Seymour Sikov Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Mary Augusta and George D. Thomas

Ms. Helen M. Tulloch

Neal Turtell

Drs. Michael L. Witmore and Kellie Robertson

The Yacobucci Family