World famous novelist sells off unique heirloom to help Devon charity

A woman in a black and red desk standing by a pine desk.

Booker Prize-winning author Dame Hilary Mantel with the desk she is selling in aid of Budleigh Literary Festival. - Credit: camerafirm

A world-renowned novelist is selling off a precious momento of her career to raise funds for a Devon literacy charity

Dame Hilary Mantel is to auction the desk at which she wrote her twice Booker Prize-winning trilogy and other novels to raise money for Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival. 

The pine desk – specially made for the world-renowned writer in a workshop in Norfolk - has produced all her novels since A Change of Climate in 1994, including Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies and The Mirror and the Light. In Dame Hilary’s own words: “It has served me well and has a great record of turning out prize winners.” 

A close-up of a pine writing desk with books and a hand-written letter on it.

The highest bidder will also find some extras in the desk drawers, as mementoes of Dame Hilary's illustrious writing career. - Credit: Bonhams

The desk will go on sale on June 22, 2022, via Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London, with a price estimate of £1,000-1,500. 

Bonhams head of books and manuscripts Matthew Haley said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be entrusted with the sale of this very special desk. Hilary Mantel is one of the true greats of modern English literature with a marvellous ability to appeal to a very wide range of readers”   

Dame Hilary has decided to part with the pedestal desk - which comes in three parts for easier transportation - because she and her husband Gerald McEwen are moving to Ireland and she no longer needs a desk this size in her new property. As president of the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, where the couple currently live, she has decided to offer it up for auction to support the festival’s work in schools in the region. 

The highest bidder will also find some extras in the desk drawers, as mementoes of her illustrious writing career while seated at it crafting her best-selling novels. 

The prestigious Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, which runs for five days in September, is a charity and takes authors free of charge into schools to engage children in reading for pleasure and all the benefits that brings in terms of well-being, literacy and life chances. This year the festival is also providing as many children as it can in the region with a free book, responding to the National Literacy Trust’s findings that one in 11 children has not a single book at home. 

The festival’s artistic director Annie Ashworth said: “Covid restrictions and the loss of school days will only have made engagement in reading more challenging. The proceeds from this auction will enable us to make a huge difference to children’s lives and their futures.” 

A pine writing desk.

The pine desk was specially made for the world-renowned writer in a workshop in Norfolk. - Credit: Bonhams