Rare Jacobean manuscript sells for $84,000
A rare Jacobean manuscript found in an old trunk stored in a castle attic sold at auction today for £84,000.
The hitherto unknown play by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a close friend of the poet John Donne, was discovered in a folder marked “Old Poems” at Powis Castle, in Welshpool, Wales.
It was uncovered when the owner of the castle, the Earl of Powis, Dr John George Herbert, showed a team of experts two trunks of manuscripts during a valuation.
David Park, head of Bonhams’ books, maps and manuscript department said the discovery offered an insight into Lord Herbert’s literary aspirations – setting it apart from the other letters and poems found in the trunks.
“They contained the usual mixture. There were typed letters from the estate’s archive and the like mixed in with 17th century property deeds, themselves not without interest,” he said.
“It turned out later that everything in the trunks had been meticulously listed, item by item. But with one exception. This was a folder, marked, ”Old Poems“. Some of these were just 17th century copies – others were clearly in the hand of Lord Powis’s forebear, Lord Herbert of Cherbury.”
He said Lord Herbert, the elder brother of the poet George Herbert, wrote poems in the same ’metaphysical’ style as his close family friend, John Donne.
Until now, Lord Cherbury has been best known for his works on philosophy and a lively autobiography published by Horace Walpole in the 18th century.
“This tells us a great deal about his military prowess and how attractive women found him, but next to nothing about his literary ambitions,” Mr Park said.
But he added: “In this folder, there it was, a play, and clearly the draft of a play.”
He said the manuscript was full of crossings out and contained one heading, ’The Amazon’.
According to the auctioneers, an Amazon masque – a type of dramatic performance - was due to be performed before James I and his court on New Year’s Day in 1618 but it was cancelled for unknown reasons.
The manuscript itself, which is written in a pre-bound booklet of foolscap size, is set out in a manner favoured by professional dramatists of the period.
It was sold to an agent acting on behalf of an unknown buyer.