The first items for the collection were a Parker51 fountain pen that I purchased with my first salary, the manuscript repaired with earlier ones and a letter purported to have been written by the secretary of Charles Dickens. In fact the latter turned out to have been written by Dickens and my luck in buying items continued from there on.
During my lunch-break whilst working for a French bank in the City (London) in the late 50s, early 60s, I used to go to an auction house, since bought out by Sothebys, where I purchased a number of individual letters and the odd manuscript. One day I was looking at an autograph album begun in the late 18thC containing pages of autograph letters and a few relevant envelopes, pre-stamped and stamped, sold together with two later albums. A dealer saw me and said that he was interested in the stamped envelopes, but not the rest and wondered if we could go 50/50 on the purchase up to an agreed amount. I thought about it for one nanosecond and said Yes. He went to the auction and won the bid. £50 at the time. He got half a dozen envelopes that he had removed before I had looked at it closely and I got around six hundred letters including Nelson, Dickens, Tennyson, all the royal family from George 1 to Victoria and her children plus most political, military, musical, religious and literary figures from 1680 to 1860. and the George Selwyn archive.
I reckoned that I had the better choice, until I heard that on the envelopes were an unknown Mauritius deep-blue, two pence Post Office stamp of 1847 and a rare blue Woodblock Cape of Good Hope stamp; the first is now worth millions! Mind you, he did leave one Cape of Good Hope triangular that is now in a friend's collection.
The album was begun by Augusta, a god-daughter of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon. Many of the titled class collected autographs and the majority had a visitor's book that they passed around at conversazziones and soirées to impress their visitors.