Rare book rescued from auction and returned to Abbotsford

28 Sep

A TINY but valuable antiquarian book belonging to Sir Walter Scott has been returned to its rightful place in Abbotsford Library after nearly being sold at auction.

The book, Herman und Dorothea von Goethe, was written by Benjamin Fischer in 1822 and gifted to Sir Walter Scott. It went missing from his eclectic, unique collection in the library at Abbotsford.

The book had been missing from the Abbotsford Library since at least 1997 and was subsequently sold, for a fraction of its true value, in a second-hand book shop.

Its resale at auction was averted by The Rt Hon James Wolffe KC, former Lord Advocate and Dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 2014 to 2016. Mr Wolffe, Chair of the Abbotsford Trust, spotted the book in an auction catalogue where it had been listed as part of a private estate. He quickly raised the alert. 

This led to the Keeper of the Advocates Library, Neil Mackenzie KC, penning a letter to the auction house to request its return.

“At the beginning of this month the eagle-eyed James Wolffe KC spotted the title in a Lyon & Turnbull auction catalogue. The 200-year-old book has a handwritten addition on the flyleaf indicating that the book belonged to the Abbotsford Library, which is owned and operated by the Faculty of Advocates Abbotsford Collection Trust. When it was pointed out to the auction house that the Trust remained the owner of the book, Lyon & Turnbull moved swiftly to withdraw it from the sale and returned it without quibble,” said Mr Mackenzie. 

“The Trust is most grateful to Mr Wolffe, to Lyon & Turnbull, and to the executors. It is wonderful that a cultural treasure has been restored to its rightful home,” he added.