BOOKS went under the hammer for nearly £1 million at an auction in Dorchester.

A Kelmscott Press copy of The Works of Chaucer fetched a record-breaking £74,000.

Sir Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica made the top price in the sale, reaching £75,000.

The premium on top of the hammer price make its final cost to the buyer £90,000.

Auctioneer Guy Schwinge said: "It's been an amazing day, fantastic.

"The Chaucer broke the world record for a Kelmscott Press book and other records were set as well.

"It must seem incredible to people that books could fetch such high prices. But these included some of the landmark books in science - the Principia, the Newton Euclid on geometry which dates from the time of Henry VIII and sold for £62,000, and a first edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, which went for £42,000.

"This is one of the most important book auctions outside London. It underlines the fact that people can sell in Dorchester, and that's got to be good for the town as well."

He added: "We're delighted with the sale. People had flown in specially from Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Oregon and we had Internet and phone bidders from all over the world.

"The market in books is very buoyant at the moment."

The 228 lots were drawn from collections belonging to two collectors, Jean Preston and Sir Harry Newton.

Mr Schwinge said the majority of books would go to private collectors and dealers though he believed some would go to museums.

Many of the lots went well in excess of their estimates.

High prices were paid for Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which sold for £34,000, and there was strong interest in books by T.E. Lawrence including his Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which sold for £22,000.

Surprises began even before the sale. Mr Schwinge said he discovered the Chaucer wrapped up in a ladies' cardigan at the bottom of a wardrobe.

Martin Preston, nephew of the late Jean Preston, said he was delighted with the sale.

He said: "These are books that I grew up with. We all chose books we especially wanted to keep and gave a lot to charity shops.

"The ones sold today went for around £137,000."