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Our latest Antiquarian Books sale provided an excellent illustration of why proper research is essential for the best outcome in any saleroom.

An inscribed presentation copy of [Charles Dodgson] Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, from 1877 carried an inscription that read: “Mr & Mrs Dyer from the Author, Sep. 27/[18]77.”

The question was: who were the Dyers?

While the fact that this was a signed copy clearly added value and its inscription made it even more attractive, the burning question was: were the Dyers merely a casual acquaintance or significant figures in the author’s life? The answer, I’m delighted to say, proved to be the latter.

Our investigations revealed that the Dyers were the couple with whom Caroll took lodgings at 7 Lushington Road, Eastbourne, for his summer holidays. Remaining with them for July to October, 1877, his stay proved to be the first of many there that he undertook for the rest of his life.

Although nominally a vacation, the period provided him with the peace and quiet he needed to work, including on his new theory of voting used to develop a system of proportional representation, which still influences parliament today.

The estimate was £500-800, but this additional nugget of information led to a battle between a bidder on the phone from the USA and another in the room, with the hammer falling at £1100.

As I said, it pays to do your homework.