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The collection ran to around 400 lots, from which I have selected 25 or so for a report that will be divided into geographical areas and two parts – spread across this and next week’s issue.

Following the auction catalogue’s example, the lots selected are arranged alphabetically by author.

Middle East and central Asia

Printed and published anonymously in Taunton in 1842 and intended for private circulation only, Description of Affghanistan and Punjaub, with a narrative of the attempt to force the Khyber Pass… is a very rare and anonymous work written in the aftermath of the disastrous retreat of British forces from Kabul.

A work not noted in standard references and, it seems, with no previous saleroom presence, it sold at £2600.

Sold for a treble-estimate and record £2200 was a 1911 first in dust jacket of Amurath to Amurath, an account by Gertrude Bell – who in the past three years has been the subject of two feature films of her life – of an expedition of 1909 in which she set out to survey Roman and Byzantine fortresses on the banks of the Euphrates.

It was a copy that the Saturday Review sent to Sir Mark Sykes, requesting an 800-word review.

Bound in half morocco by Tout, a three volume, 1855-56 first of Richard Burton’s …Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca sold at £8500.

A couple of straightforward, 1888 firsts of CM Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta have made more – most recently that in Franklin Brook- Hitching’s fine library, which sold at £6500 in the same rooms in 2014 – but the Bonhams copy still sold well at £3800.

Bearing the bookplate of the Cork Mutual Improvement Association Library, an 1864 first of EB Eastwick’s Journal of a Diplomat’s Three Year Residence in Persia sold at £2400.

Only the inscribed Burrell copy has made more – £4200 at Sotheby’s in 2014.

An 1876, first English edition of Mongolia, the Tangut Country and the Solitudes of Northern Tibet… – one the works of Nikolai Prejevalski, a Russian geographer and explorer whose travels in what was essentially unknown central Asia preceded those of Sven Hedin and numerous others – sold for a record £2200.

Visiting places previously known only by rumour or report, Prejevalski returned with a mass of meteorological, scientific and biological data. He had discovered the wild populations of Bactrian camels and what is now known as Prejevalski’s horse.

Published in 1856, a first English edition of Moritz Wagner’s Travels in Persia, Georgia and Koordistan…, a three-decker in red cloth that includes sketches of the Cossacks and the Caucasus, was yet another of the many lots that improved markedly on estimate in the Bonham sale. It sold at a treble-estimate and record £2200.

See also the Beaufort, Hamilton and Thackeray lots featured in the illustrations above.


An 1876, first English edition of Nikolai Prejevalski’s Mongolia… and the Solitudes of Northern Tibet… sold for £2200 by Sotheby’s.

The Far East

Sold for a much higher than predicted and record £2400 at Sotheby’s was a scarce 1888 first of John Dodd’s Journal of a Blockaded Resident in North Formosa…

Published and bound for private circulation by the Daily Press Office in Hong Kong, it is an account by a British tea merchant who had been caught up in the French blockade of the island now known as Taiwan.

A 1912, two volume first of Charles Hose and William McDougall’s The Pagan Tribes of Borneo – required reading for cadets in the Sarawak Civil Service – made a record £1300.

The sale also included, at £3800 apiece, two earlier and more expensive works on the region that feature one of its better known inhabitants, the Orang-Utan.

Beeckman’s A Voyage to… the island of Borneo of 1718 and Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago of 1869 are the subject of a separate piece on this website

There was some browning, but as the first copy offered at auction in almost 30 years, an 1836 first of Captain James Low’s Dissertation on the Soil and Agriculture of the British Settlement of Penang…, printed by the Singapore Free Press, set yet one more record at £4700.