Published by Edward Orme in 1819, a set of six Views in the Island of Ceylon topped the bidding in a March 24 London sale at £10,000.
Part of a wide-ranging Chiswick Auctions (25/12% buyer’s premium) sale, these hand-coloured aquatint views, now showing some staining and marking along with marginal chipping, were two centuries ago advertised for sale in the Ceylon Gazette at 100 Rix dollars – apparently about £7.50 at the time.
The five named views in the catalogue entry, all engraved by M Dubourg after the originals of Lt William T Lyttleton, feature scenes at or near Kandy. The view reproduced here depicts ‘Tombs of Kandyan Kings at the North End of the Town of Kandy’.
Little is known about Lyttleton, said the saleroom, other than that he arrived in what we now know as Sri Lanka with a detachment of the 73rd Regiment and served with the expedition against what was then the Kingdom of Kandy in 1815.
Auction records show plenty of copies of the ballooning pioneer Vincenzo Lunardi’s 1784 Account of the First Aerial Voyage in Britain…, but the Lunardi lot offered in the Chiswick sale was something much rarer.
An Account of Five Aerial Voyages in Scotland…, published in 1786, is a work that seems to have made only two or three other appearances at auction in the last 30 or 40 years. In 2012, Lyon & Turnbull sold at £750 a copy that was bound in modern half calf, foxed and lacking the half title, but had been owned by Robert Louis Stevenson
This Chiswick copy, bound in contemporary tree calf, now a little rubbed at the edges, reached £1600. The work is illustrated with a coloured portrait of Lunardi as its frontispiece and with two other uncoloured plates. One shows him aloft and waving to spectators, while that reproduced here shows ‘Apparatus used by M. Lunardi to fill his Aerostatic Machine’. Lunardi’s balloon used hydrogen gas for lift, rather than hot air.
Ike and Winston
Offered on the same day in a Chiswick Autographs & Memorabilia sale was a photograph of Eisenhower and Churchill shaking hands on arrival at a Bermuda Conference on Western European security that was held in December 1953 – one in which France was also a participant. Signed by both men, it sold at £4400.