Some were prepared by John Sanderson of St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, seemingly in association with William Nicol (1744–97), the Scottish schoolmaster who is best known as a close friend of Robert Burns.
These handmade specimen slides, made c.1835, were discovered among a private collection of microscopes.
Each contained a fossilised tree specimen in different sections, from finds located in coal deposits around Great Britain, and was titled with a diamond stylus. Those titles included Craigleith (Edinburgh – a quarry where a fossilised tree was discovered in 1830), Ushhaw (Co Durham), Rothbury (Northumberland), Tweed Mill (Northumberland), Isle of Thanet (Kent), Whitby (Yorkshire) and New Holland (Australia).
Tucked into the lid of one of the red morocco leather boxes was the original manuscript listing of the slides – all of them still intact.
SAS director Hugo Marsh described the slides as “fantastic examples of the very early study of fossilised wood and plant specimens”. He added that they were pioneering in the method of construction: ground down very carefully in order to allow light to shine through.
The auction took place on October 19.