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Book collection like no other goes to auction

Book collection like no other goes to auction

Books were William Foyle's life. But he began collecting them only in 1945
when, at the age of 60, he stepped down as the head of Foyle's, the
bookstore he had founded in London with his brother, Gilbert, in 1903. In
its heyday a half century ago, Foyle's, on Charing Cross Road, was known the
world over as the people's bookstore, stocking five million books, mostly
secondhand, on every imaginable subject on its 48 kilometres of shelves.

As a collector, Foyle bought with the same passion and savvy that he had
shown as a bookseller, acquiring "like crazy" rare books and illuminated
manuscripts from the Middle Ages through to the early 20th century, said his
grandson Christopher Foyle, 57, who is the Foyle's chairman.

Foyle said his grandfather seemed intent on finding books that were
appropriate for the great library at Beeleigh Abbey, the 12th-century
monastery at Maldon in Essex that he acquired to retire to and live in as a
country gentleman. He let his silver hair grow to his shoulders and wore
waistcoats and winged collars and cravats with diamond stickpins. For the
spectacular pageants he staged at Beeleigh, he donned medieval robes and regalia
to lead townspeople on parades through the four hectares of gardens.

At Foyle's death in 1963, Beeleigh's library held 4,000 books and
manuscripts. It remained intact throughout the residency of a daughter,
Christina Foyle Batty, who died at 88 last June.

Now, the Foyle family and other heirs are selling William Foyle's books at
Christie's in New York from July 11 to 13. Tom Lamb, director of the rare
books and manuscripts department, describes it as "the largest British book
collection to be auctioned in 20 years". The collection is expected to fetch
more than $US9.5 million ($16.6 million).

full story: http://www.smh.com.au/news/0005/30/text/features12.html

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