'Breathtaking' signature collection of historical figures go under the hammer

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A collection of more than 1,000 signatures from famous historical figures from the past five centuries, including Charles Dickens, Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Wellington, could fetch up to £30,000 at auction.

John Evans amassed the collection, which also included the signatures of Rudyard Kipling, William Wordsworth and Arthur Conan Doyle, over a period of 50 years up until his death aged 90 in 2007.

The earliest signature is from the 1st Duke of Marlborough from 1697. And one of the most interesting signatures is that of Charles Dickens on a Coutts £35 cheque for a piece of silver in 1861.

Most former prime ministers from Robert Walpole to Winston Churchill through to Tony Blair have their signatures featured in either bound albums or signed books, as well as ex-Soviet statesman Mikhail Gorbachev.

And the collection, which auctioneers have described as "breathtaking", also features photographs signed by the first men to land on the moon, including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Passionate about politics, Mr Evans, from Worthing, West Sussex, was a former magician turned anti-vivisection campaigner who gathered some of the signatures personally from encounters with famous faces.

Auctioneer Paul Campbell of Campbells Auctioneers of Worthing predicts the collection could fetch between £25,000 and £30,000 when it comes up for sale on January 24.

Mr Campbell said: "It's been such a privilege to turn the pages of one man's life and passion and to see and consider the history he brought together.

"The Dalai Lama is next to Spencer Perceval, the prime minister who was murdered inside the House of Commons in 1812. Many of the more modern names in the collection John Evans met personally.

"He collected signatures long before he earned importance. He bought from a number of sources, from shops and auctions to country house sales, and I'm sure it's going to be a most historic sale.

"The contrasts are just breathtaking. I hope the collection will appeal to people who have an interest in history and household names."

Mr Evans was fascinated by the Duke of Wellington and his collection also includes several letters from him, as well as a lock of hair and an invitation to his funeral.