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  • Egyptology – “The Mummy’s Curse” – Letter from Sir John Alexander Cockburn 1929 re mysterious death of Hackett on Sayce expedition.

    Egyptology – “The Mummy’s Curse” – Letter from Sir John Alexander Cockburn 1929 re mysterious death of Hackett on Sayce expedition.

    Manuscript letter over two sides on Cockburn’s letterhead – Dean’s Hill, Harrietsham, Kent, January 1929. To Mr Chesson concerning the mysterious death of Hackett, signed John A Cockburn. Very legible and excellent condition.

    “I wonder if you ever heard that Hackett died dome years ago when with Sayce in Egypt. They had been witnessing the desecration of the royal tombs & superstitious folk imagined that the curse which falls on the sacrilegious had lighted on him …”

    Sir John Cockburn was a politician and Premier of South Australia and later Agent General in London. He had wide and varied interests.

    Archibald Sayce was a leading British Egyptologist and Voyager hero … we have an original letter penned by the great man and usually one or two of his books online.

    James Thompson Hackett (1858-1974) was born in Collinwood, Victoria. He became a solicitor and partnered John Cox Bray who also became Premier and Agent General of South Australia. Hackett became greatly interested in metaphysics and the supernatural hence ending up in Egypt with Sayce. He died (of the curse?) in Luxor on 6th March 1924.

    The recipient of the letter was Wilfred Hugh Chesson (1870-1952) writer and editor at publishers Unwin, London. Chesson has been involved published Hackett’s books on the unusual.

    Mysterious Death in Egypt! Intriguing Australian connections


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  • Linus Pauling (Two Times Nobel Prize Winner) – Signed corrected typed letter to colleague Professor D.P. Craig

    Linus Pauling (Two Times Nobel Prize Winner) – Signed corrected typed letter to colleague Professor D.P. Craig

    One of the top 100 scientists that have ever lived. Along with Marie Currie he received the Nobel Prize twice in different fields, Chemistry and Peace the only person to have received two alone in their own right.

    Valence theory and the application of quantum mechanics to molecular theory was his forte. Here we have him corresponding with Australian Professor David Craig at University College, London. Craig spent much time there and then later at the Research School of Chemistry, ANU, Canberra.

    Pauling writes on California Institute of Technology, Pasadena letterhead …. 4th August 1961

    “I thank you for your letter about molecular orbitals and benzene. I have no doubt that a reasonably good job can be done in discussing aromatic molecules by use of the molecular orbital method, in such a way that students find the discussion acceptable. I am not sure that I feel that it is obviously justified to say that the electrons occupying an orbital with a single node are about as stable as in the two-center orbitals of a Kekule structure – I know that this is right, but how the student would feel is another matter.

    Nevertheless, I have not reached the conclusion that I should attempt much of a molecular-orbital discussion in my book, as well as the discussion of simple resonance theory.”

    An enlightening view … Kekule having established his principles in the mid-19thC. It was not until molecular orbital theory that the properties of aromatic molecules could be more readily understood. Pauling used X-ray technology to support his findings. In a number of areas, he was “in competition” with Australian born Sir Lawrence Bragg, who was running the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. Pauling discovered the protein alpha helix after many years of painstaking work … without this the work on DNA would have come much later. Having won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work he became a strong anti-bomb supporter and through his efforts to suppress cold war activity was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Later he became a champion for the use of vitamin C as a near cure all.

    Linus Pauling every Scientists Hero – A letter to a Colleague with relevant Scientific Content


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  • French Thetrical Legend – Sarah Bernhardt – Signed Manuscript Letter 1887, Photographic Portrait and Ephemera

    French Thetrical Legend – Sarah Bernhardt – Signed Manuscript Letter 1887, Photographic Portrait and Ephemera

    Likely the 19th Century’s greatest actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). A fine hand with bold signature dated 1887. Her personal grey bordered stationery with the Quand Meme motif.

    She addresses “Mon Cher Paul” mentions her pretty niece and trying to arrange a suitable time to catch up.

    The letter is accompanied by a photographic portrait of Bernhardt, a cabinet card depicting the legend in Camille by Dumas which she performed in 1882. 16cm by 11cm mounted on original card minor edge chips, plain back.

    Also relating to her tour of America (see below) two “Between the Acts & Bravo” cigarette cards, also from the 1880’s, issued by Thomas Hall, New York. 7.5cm by 4cm each, very good condition.

    1887 was an interesting time for the “Divine Sarah”. She was well established by this time but had

    developed an extremely lavish lifestyle and had a gambler for a son that she supported financially. Already accustomed to touring a mammoth tour of South and North America was organised by her manager Edouard Jarett. It was hugely successful an she returned to Paris the year of this letter with a million francs. Unfortunately, her manager died of a heart attack on the tour … it didn’t stop Sarah indulging in some of her favourite pastimes … such as collecting exotic animals. She brought back an alligator that seemingly was partial to champagne. Among her other strange activities was sleeping in a coffin when trying to get into character for rather dowdy parts.

    Sarah Bernhardt – Signed manuscript Letter – 1887 – with Cabinet Card from that period.


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  • The Collected Poems of Sidney Keyes – With Unpublished typescript Poem “Ode to Hitler”

    The Collected Poems of Sidney Keyes – With Unpublished typescript Poem “Ode to Hitler”

    Published posthumously by Routledge, London a fourth impression, 1951. Small octavo, xxiv, 123 pages, original binding, very good condition. The typescript poem “Ode to Hitler’ is dated June 1941 (whilst he was till at Oxford – see below). There is a manuscript note on the endpapers “including unpublished poem”; also a note from Anthony Smith, Headmaster of Dartford Grammar School, which Keyes attended “Dear Professor Porter, I am returning three items we borrowed from you …”. This is October, 1987 and there had been a special Keyes Conference held at the school that year … it is possible that the unique poem was one of the borrowed items, and that this book was Porter’s Professor Porter is likely the Theologian who was at Oriel college, Oxford for 13 years from 1949.

    The typescript poem contains an overtyped correction “Lonely” in the third last line – shown in the image. The manuscript date “June 1941” is surely in Sidney Keyes’ hand, by comparison with the facsimile of a hand written poem included in “Collected Poems”

    This is a special story. Sidney Keyes (1922-1943) was raised by his maternal grandparent, his mother died shortly after his birth. He began writing poetry at a very young age, influenced by Wordsworth, Rilke and Jung. He won a scholarship to Queen’s College, Oxford. At University he wrote two books “The Cruel Solstice” and “The Iron Laurel” for which he was later awarded the Hawthornden Prize. He was very active at Oxford editing the Cherwell Magazine and forming a dramatic society. Leaving Oxford in 1942 he joined the army and sadly died in active service in Tunisia in April 1943.

    All up there are 110 poems of which half relate to the War. All of his poems written during active service were lost.

    “Ode to Hitler” is a seven verse poem the first six comprising seven lines, the last six. It is a serious matter, whilst being clear in meaning. We do not want to publish all here … but here are the final lines.

    “You tapeworm of the mind, you will forgive
    My wanderings, stung by a sudden fury;
    Not even speaking for my country, only
    A mouthing sharp-tongued poet for the lonely
    And awkward speaking. But you will never thrive
    While we, the sour and cunning, stay alive.”

    A special writer and poet who gave his life too young and, a potentially important unpublished work.



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  • Manuscript Letter (A Complaint) from Sir Erasmus Ommanney (First to Find Evidence of Franklin) to Hepworth Dixon (Notable Literary Identity) – 14th May 1870

    Manuscript Letter (A Complaint) from Sir Erasmus Ommanney (First to Find Evidence of Franklin) to Hepworth Dixon (Notable Literary Identity) – 14th May 1870

    Erasmus Ommanney (1814-1904) was an extraordinary individual from one of those sorts of families. He was born in 1824 seventh son of Sir Francis Molyneux Ommanney. In 1836 he went to Baffin’s Bay with Sir James Ross … he was second in command on the Franklin searching expedition and was the first to find traces of Franklin’s ships in 1850. He travelled over 500 miles on sledge to find the Franklin traces at Beechey Island. During this adventure he gathered much geographical information.

    In 1854, on commencement of the Crimean War, he commanded a Squadron in the White Sea and engaged a Russian flotilla off the mouth of the Dwin that year … later the Committee at the Royal Geographical Society … Royal Society, Royal Astronomical society (Observed the transit of Venus at Luxor in 1874)… Knighted etc for Arctic services.

    The recipient possibly equally well known in literary circles, historian and traveller Hepworth Dixon (1821-1879). A controversial writer at that. He was active in organising London’s Great Exhibition of 1851.

    Two pages in a strong clear hand from 6 Talbot Square … a nice London address. Marked clearly Private. Erasmus is obviously not happy … he had previously written to Hepworth Dixon and clearly provided some personal information about his naval conduct (about which we believe he had been criticised … he was pretty heavy handed in the White Sea) and Dixon had published these “private letter” in the press.

    “I was at the point of replying to your last note when I was surprised to find you had published my letters to you in the Newspapers, I believe it is always customary on such occasions first to obtain the sanction of the writer”

    Erasmus goes on … “My object in criticising your representations of my conduct at Solaretet was simply to induce you to add … comments, in your next edition of “Free Russia” … to show that your countrymen were justified in punishing … and that we did not bombard a defenceless … ; and I was going to enquire that you would not publish my [this] letter but evenly take the substance of my information for your guidance”

    Erasmus continues … not happy … “ As you have published my letters in the daily papers I must abide by the unpleasant announcements of the press, – there are various considerations to be dwelt on before an Officer writes on matters of a national and public nature in the newspapers; and in the present instance my letters should not have appeared.”

    Erasmus turns up the heat … “As you have forwarded a copy of your work to the Emperor of Prussia, I have greater cause to feel dissatisfied with you colouring of my conduct in the Solowitch affair, which on the while I fear injurious to my reputation. I hope that the subject will not appear again in the papers”

    Cranky letter from Victorian Naval hero and Adventurer who has had his reputation challenged in the Press


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  • Original manuscript Accounts Book 1791/92 – Most Likely – Webster’s Ropery Sunderland, County Durham, England

    Original manuscript Accounts Book 1791/92 – Most Likely – Webster’s Ropery Sunderland, County Durham, England

    Original folio accounts book for the two-year ending 31st December 1792 most likely of or the predecessor to one of England’s leading maritime rope makers, Webster of Deptford, Sunderland County Durham. Original quarter reverse calf with marbled paper covered boards. 62 pages of fine handwriting … appears all the same hand.

    Titled at the head of page the first page “An Inventory of Goods etc at the Ropery belonging Messrs William Marshall and John Webster together with an account of the Debts due to & from them this first Day of January One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety One”

    The first record of rope making on Wearside (the river Weir runs through Sunderland) was in 1636. The rope was likely made from Baltic hemp. Before 1800 ropes were hand-made on ropewalks a practice that continued for another 100 years. Ropewalks had to be wide enough for four men to spin abreast of each other and long enough to make a standard 120 fathom marine rope. Up to 20 people may be employed on just one rope.

    Webster’s plant at Deptford was the first on Wearside driven by steam. It is believed to be the world’s first factory producing machine-made rope. Robert Fothergill a Sunderland schoolmaster had patented a machine to spin hemp the year after our accounts book (1793). It could be that this careful record was produced as part of an exercise to obtain finance for the mechanisation … although the low wages recorded suggest that that mechanisation may well have been underway. We do know that Fothergill died shortly afterwards and Grimshaw a local clockmaker took up the rights in partnership with our Webster and two others. Although its not clear whether the Webster involved was Rowland a distinguished magistrate or John as noted here.

    One of the partners in the business was the distinguished Rowland Burdon who later gave up his Parliamentary position on principle although many though that it was because Webster’s Ropery had gained very lucrative contracts with the Royal Navy and he was avoiding any backlash financially … for sure Webster’s were there at Trafalgar!

    The records mention many of the vessels of the day that would have been working out of the North-east along with their captains … e.g. Captain McQuarrie of the Fanny; Johnstone of the Nancy William; Robinson of the Broughton Tower; Cleminson of the Argyll; Kennel of the Endeavour (a new one); Dixon of the Sarah; Holm of the Hollow Oak; Neal of the Betsy.

    Neat recording of debts and payments with particulars of sales noted with full description for every transaction with monthly totals compared often against some measure of the physical amount sold (early KPI’s). Stock holdings, wages per wage period all set out very carefully. For an industrial historian there seems sufficient information to paint a pretty full picture of the extent of activities. We have gleamed that the Ropery Buildings are in the books at GBP 220, stockholdings were GBP205 and annual sales GBP484 with total wages of only GBP72. Looks nicely profitable.

    Interestingly, the Ropery building still exists and has been restored … it is a magnificent building and has been re-established as Webster’s Ropery … but as a beautiful wedding venue … check it out we have shown an image here.

    Accounting Records from 1792 …. unique Maritime interest …


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