November 27, 2017
Watership Down author Richard Adams had an amazing library
by Peter Clark
Watership Down returns anyone with two eyes, a heart, and an under-the-covers flashlight to a state of childish wonder. Published in 1972, it is, for the uninitiated, the classic story of Hazel leading his warren of rabbits to the peaceful, unmarred hillside. Author Richard Adams developed the story for his daughters on long car rides, and eventually wrote it down. Ever since, it’s delighted children around the world.
When Adams passed away last year at the age of ninety-six, he left behind not just a legacy of animal stories—and a fully-fleshed-out rabbit language called “Lapine”—but also a vast library of books. And his collection boasts some pretty amazing stuff.
As Alison Flood reported in the Guardian last week, the library “ranges from a rare copy of Milton’s epic poem Lycidas to a first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma.” Dominic Winter Auctioneers is set to sell it in its entirety on December 14. Milton’s Lycidas is appraised between £50,000 and £70,000.
But the crown jewel of the collection is a copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio of 1632, featuring all the Bard’s plays, slightly revised from the initial printing in 1623, prefaced by a Milton poem titled An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare.
In a press release, the auction house writes:
The sale of Richard Adams’s Library on 14th December represents his collection intact and in its entirety (apart from a few selected volumes retained by the author’s family). It reveals the wide learning and eclectic interests of its owner, including modern fiction (many inscribed from author to author), children’s books, antiquarian English literature, natural history, religion, history (particularly the American Civil War) and chess.
When great authors die, it’s always enjoyable to peruse the books that inspired them, in the hope of seeing a bit of their product revealed in the influences. Perhaps this was the case with Adams and his epic tale of rabbits. Or perhaps he was a genius in his own right collecting books by other geniuses just to be in their company. Who knows? Who cares? The man had some great books.
Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.