Published in The Graphic in 1884, this ‘Bird’s-Eye View of London as seen from a Balloon’ after WL Wyllie and HW Brewer is a well-known and popular print. For this example, the folds clearly visible, Dominic Winter had thought £300-500 was a reasonable bet. It was instead contested to £3000 in the May 10 sale.

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It began on May 10 with a 576-lot sale of books, maps, documents and so on.

Polar material was very much in evidence in this first part, with items from a number of private collections contributing some 135 lots in all.

No really big money-makers emerged, and the top lot was one in which the polar content was only part of the attraction.

This was an account by William Ellis of Cook’s third and fatal voyage to the Pacific, one of whose aims was to find the Pacific entrance to the elusive Northwest Passage.

Ellis, an assistant surgeon who served on both the Resolution and Discovery, also produced the illustrations for the book’s plates.

Including some of the earlier views of Hawaii, Alaska and the North-west, his book was published in 1782 – two years before the official account and in contravention of Admiralty instructions.

The binding, a contemporary one of full calf, was broken and in poor condition, and though this copy sold over estimate at £2800, others have made more. In 2007, the Streeter copy made $19,000 (then about £9500) at Christie’s New York and three years ago Franklin Brooke-Hitching’s characteristically fine copy made £6500 at Sotheby’s.

In original blue cloth gilt, an 1851 first of W Parker Snow’s Voyage of the Prince Albert…, one of the many books that resulted from the numerous voyages undertaken in the search for Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition, sold at £1050.

A surprise bid of £1300 secured an album of 55 mostly vintage postcards relating to the Shackleton and Scott Antarctic expeditions.

Sold for £2900 in the South Cerney sale was a 95pp manuscript account of ‘Voyages to Madagascar…’ made in the years 1817-25 by Thomas Locke Lewis, a lieutenant (later captain) in the Royal Engineers.

Published in edited form in an 1835 issue of the Journal… of the Royal Geographical Society, Lewis’ account provides detailed information on the Ovah people of Madagascar during the reign of King Radama, local customs, economy and language, for which he provides an alphabet. The manuscript also incorporates a large, folding map of the island.

This lot had been valued at £400-600, as had a 1929 first of Rudolph Said-Ruete’s biography of his grandfather, Said bin Sultan (1791- 1856), Ruler of Oman and Zanzibar….

In original cloth, it bore a presentation inscription from the author to Countess Cave of Richmond, “in remembrance of her association with Zanzibar”, and it sold for a record £4600.

Bird brains

The day’s surprise bid was one of £3000 – 10 times the low estimate – for a well known ‘Bird’s-Eye’ view of London (see caption story above).

A first edition of what we nowadays tend to think of as one of one of Elgar’s better known works, his 1900 oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius, sold at £1250.

It had begun life in 1866, however, as a poem by the future Cardinal John Henry Newman.