A rare 17th century book, possibly the only copy outside a museum, is one of the treasures poised to go under the hammer at a Nelson auction.
The Mysterie of Rhetorique Unveil'd by John Gent Smith, published in 1665, was found in England by a man who was restoring a house.
It is one of about 200 items that will go under the hammer at an auction at the Rutherford Hotel on Friday night.
The book is a 17th century manual intended to explain the Bible and to teach young people how to speak and write more elegantly and persuasively.
Auctioneer John Walker said as far as he could tell from his research, it was the only privately held copy of the book in the world.
The British Library, Huntington University in the United States, Oxford University and the Anglican Church in England had copies of the book, but searches of the internet and other sources had turned up no more.
The book was the most rare item he had dealt with, he said. "I think it's exciting."
He was not yet sure of the reserve price, nor of its value.
The owner of the book, who declined to be named, said he had found it while restoring a house in England.
He was taking down an old outhouse to make space for car parking, and found the book tucked in the rafters. He also found old coins under the floorboards.
When he moved to Nelson, he met Mr Walker while both were working on the Theatre Royal restoration.
He had no idea the book was so rare, but had found a signature in the book dated 1720, and thought the book was one of the last to be printed in the original St Paul's Cathedral in London before it burned down in the Great Fire of London.
Mr Walker said he had been surprised to see such a rare item.
"I've known him for the last four or five years, I didn't realise he had all these goodies."
Rather than auctioning the book overseas, he wanted to see how successful a Nelson auction could be, and wanted to see the book retained in New Zealand.
"Everybody thinks you get the best price in England. I tell you what, we will give them a run for their money here."
Aside from the book, the auction also includes an old cavalry sword, a vintage mixer and a large variety of expensive jewellery, art and antiques.
"There's something there for everybody."
He hoped to make the spring auction an annual event.
"Why can't we do it here? Peter Jackson films all his films here [in New Zealand]."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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