One of the 72 framed plates from The Clans of the Scottish Highlands sold at Christie’s for £28,000.

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In the 1840s the print sellers and publishers Ackermanns issued The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, a work containing 72 hand coloured lithographs produced by Dickinsons and others after originals by Robert Ronald McIan.

James Logan provided the accompanying essays on the clans featured in the work, but it is McIan's illustrations that are the major attraction. McIan had been an actor on the London stage before turning his hand to painting and it has been suggested that fellow thespians acted as his models, which may account for some of the more melodramatic poses.

Dedicated, with permission, to Queen Victoria, the work was first issued in 24 monthly parts on subscription in the years 1845-47, then made available as a two volume collection.

Whilst not as common as it once was, copies still turn up at auction from time to time and hammer prices tend to be in the £2000-3000 range - though there was a copy of the 1857 reissue by Willis & Sotherans that made closer to £4000 a couple of years ago.

On January 20, two sets of these plates offered in salerooms in England and America produced very different results. Freeman's of Philadelphia, America's oldest auction house, had a copy in the book sale that launched their bicentenary year sales schedule. It was in the original if slightly rubbed and stained binding of richly gilt scarlet morocco. Although there was some light foxing evident, this was mostly to be found on the text leaves, the plates remaining generally clean and bright.

This copy sold for $5500, or £2955, but a great deal more was paid for a differently presented set of plates on the same day at Christie's. These formed part of the contents of Millden, a Scottish Lodge decorated in a highland theme, which the auctioneers were selling at King Street (see last week's London Selection).

Acquired less than 20 years ago, they had been mounted in wooden or wood veneered frames and at least two bidders seem to have thought that a few hundred pounds worth of framing made the McIan plates worth many thousands of pounds more.

Normally, and assuming you are happy to break the book, the plates would work out at about £40 each before framing, but this set made £28,000, which with premium added sees them valued at over £400 each, framed!

Online research suggests that even if you were not prepared to wait for the next copy of Logan & McIan's work to come along, you could probably amass a complete set of the individual prints from dealer sites and have them all nicely framed for well under £10,000.