There has always been great interest in early topographical images of the Far East, and prices have grown steeply during the past 10 years. Thomson was one of the first photographers to travel to east Asia and is noted for his social documentary images.
Leading the sale at the Gloucestershire auction house on October 3 was a first edition of Thomson’s Views on the North River, which more than doubled its £20,000 high estimate with a £48,000 hammer price. Published in 1870, it included 14 mounted albumen prints, each with a printed caption, and is the earliest and rarest of Thomson’s photo books on China and describes his trip 200 miles up the river. It has a provenance back to a pair of European surgeons working in the Far East.
An album of 38 photographs of Hong Kong scenes also more than doubled expectations when it was hammered down for £38,000.
Coming in at a mid-estimate £20,000 was an 1873-74 series of 200 photographs of Illustrations of China and its People.
It was a first edition of the book Thomson compiled during his extensive tour of the country from 1868-72, which he said was compiled to “convey an accurate impression of the country I traversed as well as the arts, usages and manners which prevail in different provinces of the Empire”.