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Travel and exploration, including maps and some high-priced early photographs among the Middle Eastern lots, formed the principal focus of a recent Sotheby’s (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) auction.

Natural history lots also featured in that May 15 sale, but while it raised £2.34m overall, including premium, the failure of a uniformly bound set of Goulds carrying a high estimate of £900,000 was undoubtedly a big disappointment.

Nevertheless, the 160-lot library of Colin and Joan Deacon, works from the private collection of dealers John and Suzanne Bonham and material from many other vendors provided a wide range for buyers.

This report highlights three of the many atlas and map lots and a few photographic highlights.

Setting sail

Sold for £85,000 was a finely coloured copy of a Zee-Atlas bearing the imprint of Amsterdam bookseller and publisher Pieter Goos. Dated 1668, though a slightly later issue, it contains 41 double-page sea and coastal charts, all in contemporary colour, and boasts a Dutch vellum gilt binding of the period.

Goos, though responsible for publishing a number of different sea-atlases or pilots, was very much derivative. For this example he drew heavily on Henrik Doncker’s Zee-Atlas of 1659 for his charts.

Though it may not be obvious at first glance, the bit of England or ‘Anglia Pars’ depicted in the chart from a 1590, French language edition of Lucas Janzoon Waghenaer’s Mirroir de Navigation, de la Mer Occidentale… (pictured top) is the southern coast of Cornwall.

The Lizard peninsula reaches down towards the compass rose and the Fal estuary opens out above.

Waghenaer’s work was the first printed rutter, or book of sailing directions, to incorporate sea charts and had first appeared in an English translation around 1588, as The Mariner’s Mirror.

The very rare original Dutch language edition of Wagenhaer’s Spieghel der Zeevaerdt, was printed in 1583-84 on the Plantin presses at Leiden, but it is the Latin version of 1586 that features most prominently in auction records.

The exception, and right at the top of the price lists, is the ex-Earl of Shaftesbury and Harrison D Horblit copy of the first English edition sold for £75,000 in the 2006 Sotheby’s sales of the Lord Wardington library of atlases and geographies.

Lacking one of the 47 double-page engraved coastal charts, this Sotheby’s copy of the Amsterdam-printed, but first French-language edition was a little dampstained, creased and showed some marginal repairs. However, it is rare and it sold at £32,000.

Described by the saleroom as a tall and crisp copy, and in a later sheep binding, a 1511, first Venetian edition of the Ptolemy Geographiae… was sold at £60,000. This was the only Italian edition printed from woodcuts and has a further claim to fame in being the first atlas to employ two-colour printing.

Photographic highlights


A damaged but very rare early image of the Mahmal being carried through the streets from a group of 15 photographs of Mecca by Sayyid abd al-Ghaffar, sold for £240,000 at Sotheby’s.

The Sotheby’s photographic lots focused mainly on the Middle East. The star turn, at £240,000, was a lot presenting 15, mostly albumen prints by Sayyed abd al-Ghaffar, a doctor who was taught photography by the Dutch Orientalist, Christiaan Snouk Hurgronje.

Though damaged, the images include what is thought to be the first-ever photograph taken of the Mahmal, the ceremonial palanquin that was the centrepiece of the pilgrim caravan from Cairo to Mecca.

An 1889 first of Snouck Hurgronje’s Bilder aus Mekka, a folio collection of 20 mounted photographs that is much scarcer than its contemporary companion volume, the Bilder Atlas zu Mekka, sold at £40,000.

Sold at £135,000 was an album of more than 90 photographs of Oman and Iraq by Louis Maguire, Joseph Svoboda, Samuel Miles and others dating from the years 1871-85.

It was a gift from the US consul in Muscat to the British political agent in the Gulf, Samuel Barrett Miles.

West Horsley focus

A few items from the West Horsley Place library were offered as part of this Sotheby’s travel sale of May 15 – the most important of them a copy of the first book printed in English in Turkey.

This was The Capitulations and Articles of Peace… agreed between Britain and the Ottoman court at Constantinople following negotiations led by Heneage Finch, Earl of Winchelsea and ambassador to the Porte in the years 1661-62.

The terms of these ‘Capitulations’, or trading privileges – first established during the reign of Elizabeth I – were here printed by Abraham Gabbai, who had established a press in Constantinople in 1660.

In a now broken binding of 18th century calf, it was bid to £24,000.

See Toovey’s report in this edition for more West Horsley lots.