Catalogue of the Extensive, Genuine, and highly Valuable Collection of Pictures, late the Property of the Hon. John Clerk of Eldin, one of the Senators of the College of Justice…which will be Unreservedly sold by Auction by Messrs Thomas Winstanley & Sons (of Liverpool), at No. 16, Picardy Place, Edinburgh, on Thursday the 14th of March 1833, and thirteen following days…. John Clerk AUCTION CATALOGUE: ELDIN, Lord.

A Famous Sale with Fatal Results

Catalogue of the Extensive, Genuine, and highly Valuable Collection of Pictures, late the Property of the Hon. John Clerk of Eldin, one of the Senators of the College of Justice…which will be Unreservedly sold by Auction by Messrs Thomas Winstanley & Sons (of Liverpool), at No. 16, Picardy Place, Edinburgh, on Thursday the 14th of March 1833, and thirteen following days…

Double-page engraved frontis. & five engraved plates. 2 p.l., 2 , 32 pp., [2], 33-103, 11 pp. 8vo, cont. green half-morocco & marbled boards (extremities rubbed & joints a bit cracked at head). Edinburgh: Printed by J. Hutchison, 1833.

[bound with]:

(—). Catalogue of the Library of the late John Clerk of Eldin…containing a very Valuable Collection of Books in Law, Classics, History, the Fine Arts, and Miscellaneous Literature…which will be sold by Auction, by Mr C.B. Tait, in his Great Room, No. 11, Hanover Street, on Monday, January 21, 1833, and Nine following Days… 2 p.l., 58 pp. 8vo. N.p. [Edinburgh]: J. Colston, [1833].

[bound with]:

[HOWELL, John]. A Concise and Accurate Account of the Accident that Occurred at the Sale of the late Lord Eldin’s Pictures, On Saturday the 16th March, at 16, Picardy Place. By a Sufferer [name of “John Howell” supplied in a contemporary hand]. One folding lithographed floor plan (caption at head slightly cropped). 36 pp. 8vo. Edinburgh: J. Howell, 1833.

A famous sale with fatal results. John Clerk, Lord Eldin (1757–1832), was one of the leading Scottish lawyers of his time; “he acquired so extensive a practice that, it is said, at one period of his career he had nearly half the business of the court in his hands. As a pleader he was remarkable, both for his acuteness and for his marvellous powers of reasoning, as well as for his fertility of resource. Possessed of a rough, sarcastic humour, he delighted in ridiculing the bench, and was in the habit of saying whatever he liked to the judges without reproof.”–ODNB. He was appointed a judge in 1823.

Clerk accumulated immense collections of paintings, engravings, drawings, china, bronzes, terra cotta, coins, and books. Upon his death, his collections were sold by auction at his house in March of 1833. On the third day of the auction of his estate, the floor collapsed, due to overcrowding and the poor construction of Clerk’s house, killing one person and injuring a number of other bidders and spectators.

The first two catalogues are both printed on large paper (the first is limited to 50 copies according to the verso of the half-title and the second has a contemporary note that there were only 12 copies printed on large paper). As far as we can tell, no regular paper copies were issued.

Clerk was a bachelor with a penchant for the fine arts and devoted much of his leisure time either to drawing or adding to his considerable collections. His consulting room was said to be “overrun by his collection of art, literature, and animals [with] all manner of trash, dead and living, and all in confusion.” He possessed paintings, prints, and drawings by Rembrandt, Holbein, Rubens, Dürer, Breughel, along with many other old masters. Additionally, Clerk had amassed “a most extensive and exceptional” collection of 55 volumes with hundreds of architectural drawings by Robert Adam, which he had inherited from his mother, Susannah, sister of the celebrated Adam brothers, the architects. 1210 lots.

His library of 1422 lots contained important books in the fields of law, classics, history, the fine arts, with numerous luxury sets.

In the third work (also printed on large paper), Howell (1788-1863), an Edinburgh writer and inventor (see ODNB), vividly recounts how the second floor of the home caved in and fell 16 feet below into Clerk’s library. He then provides a list of those in attendance at the time of the accident, their occupations, and the degrees to which they were injured. The folding frontispiece map illustrates the floor plan of the house before and after the incident.

Four of the five plates and the frontispiece in the first catalogue are reproductions of items in Clerk’s collection, including “The Adoration of the Magi.” The other plate is a fine steel engraving depicting a bust of the collector, executed by Robert Bell, a famous Edinburgh engraver.

Nice copies. Bookplate of James John Falconer, whom we believe was one of the “sufferers.”

❧ ODNB.

Price: $5,750.00

Item ID: 5612