Rare books on Norfolk's history go up for auction
PUBLISHED: 15:43 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:32 24 April 2019
They offer a fascinating glimpse into the county's past and now 11 volumes of Francis Blomefield's life work, his history of Norfolk, are to be sold in auction in Diss.
The rare calf-bound volumes, dating from 1805 to 1810, complete with their engraved illustrations and folding maps, are being sold by Diss local historian Dennis Cross and will go under the hammer at TW Gaze sale rooms in the town on May 11.
“They don't come up for auction too often these days,” said the auctioneers' book specialist Robert Henshilwood, who has put an estimate of £400-£600 on the volumes.
“They are really the quintessential set that you want in your library if you want local books and are interested in local history, genealogy and topography, the history of Norfolk really.
“Local historians will probably be interested in certain volumes because each covers various hundreds, the old name for administrative areas; volume one has the Diss Hundred. But hopefully they have wider people to collectors as well; people with nice country houses and libraries. This is the set to have if you're interested in Norfolk as they do give you a real interesting glimpse into the past.”
The Diss sale is fitting as the Rev Francis Blomefield was born in the nearby village of Fersfield in 1705, the eldest son of Henry and Alice described as “yeoman farmers”.
He attended Diss Grammar School before going Caius College, Cambridge. After being ordained and appointed rector of Hargham, then rector of Fersfield, he published the first volume of his Topographical History of Norfolk, printed at his own press at Fersfield, acquired especially for the purpose.
The second volume, consisting of a detailed history of Norwich, was begun in 1741 and completed by 1745.
Rev Blomefield died of smallpox in 1752 while working on the third edition but his work was carried on by the Rev Charles Parkin, Rector of Oxborough.
Mr Cross, 68, a retired builder, has lived and worked in Diss all his life and has produced local history books and collections of pre-1920s postcards, has owned the volumes since 1973 having bought them from a second hand book shop in Ipswich.
He said: “I have done books on Diss and the surrounding area and lots of research and they have been excellent books for that. A lot of people now go on the computer to look things up but there are things in these books that every historian would love to get their hands on.
“I hope that whoever buys them will cherish them. If you flick through them you can see all the plates, illustrations and drawings, and they are very comprehensive. They are considered the bible of Norfolk and they don't come up very often.”
Mr Henshilwood, who joined TW Gaze as book specialist in January, said other lots of local interest included four late 19th century copies of the Diss Express featuring engraved advertisements.
The sale also includes childrens' books, some editions of Dickens, literary and first editions, travel and topography with some maps and atlases, natural history, military, motoring and contemporary art books.