A SIGNED first edition of one of the most controversial books of the 20th century will go under the hammer in a sale set to get bidders talking.

One of only 1,000 copies of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover is being auctioned in Darlington next week, carrying a price estimate of £5,000 to £7,000.

The shocking story of romance between an aristocratic woman and a working class man was first printed privately as a limited edition in Florence in 1928, but it was not until 1960 that it was published in its entirety in Britain.

Even then, it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books and many were stunned by its explicit descriptions of sex and its use of then-unprintable words.

Penguin won the case and quickly sold three million copies and the work of the English novelist is now regarded as a literary classic.

The book being sold in Thomas Watson’s Fine Art Sale next week is number 324 of only 1,000 copies of the first Italian edition.

It is signed on original board with a paper label to the spine and a printed black phoenix on the front cover.

“It is very exciting to have this rare edition of a book which has such historical notoriety,” said David Elstob, auctioneer and Director at Thomas Watson.

“Any signed first edition work by a famous author always commands a lot of interest.

“But this particular novel has become a household name, not only due to its controversial content, but also because it marked a significant turning point in the liberalism of society.”

The novel explores the relationship between Lady Chatterley and a gamekeeper following the Great War, however the story was ostracised in Britain and also banned for obscenity in the United States, Canada, Australia, India and Japan.

However, in 1960, a trial at the Old Bailey saw the book liberated in Britain, which was seen as a crucial step towards the freedom of the written word and opened debate into other areas of human rights.

The book will go under the hammer as part of lots on Thomas Watson’s Fine Art Sale catalogue with the sale itself starting at 10am on Tuesday, May 15.

Bidding can be made in person, online or via telephone and the contents of the sale can be viewed on Saturday, May 12, and Sunday, May 13, between 10am and 1pm at the auction house off Northumberland Street.

The lots will also be on show between 9am and 4pm on Monday, May 14.

For more information, call 01325-462559.