Detained in London on expedition business, probably extra fundraising commitments, Scott thanks Lady Adéline, the wife of Admiral Sir James Goodrich, for a charming present. He also explains that he and his wife will be travelling by fast steamer and then link up with the Terra Nova in South Africa.
This was of course the expedition that would end so tragically with the death of Scott and his companions – Oates, Bowers, Wilson and Evans – who had reached the South Pole, only to find that Amundsen had been there before them, and then perished on the return journey.
Photos quickly withdrawn
A very different lot provided one of the sale’s other more expensive purchases. Bid to £22,500 was a volume presenting 53 photogravure plates by John Claude White relating to Sir Francis Younghusband’s Tibet mission of 1903-04.
White, a Calcutta-born engineer, photographer, civil servant and experienced political officer who had served in Sikkim for at least 15 years, had objected to his appointment as a deputy to Younghusband, but was over-ruled, censured and packed off to Tibet.
The ambitious Younghusband hoped their expedition might be able to force the Tibetans to trade with British India, and shed light on British concerns that Russia was gaining influence in Lhasa.
A promotional catalogue of 1905 notes that White’s photographs were initially issued individually or in albums, as half-tone or carbon prints, but 83 of them were later published in a two-volume set with letterpress descriptions by CB Bayley.
Dated 1907-08, those sets were almost immediately withdrawn from circulation for fear that the information contained would reveal classified details to the Chinese. As a consequence, only half-a-dozen examples are recorded, and hardly less rare, said Bonhams, are copies of the single-volume version that they were offering – one that was published just a few months later.
Another copy of this single-volume version, the contents loose in a perished binding but bearing the ownership signature of Henry G Booth, who had served in the Younghusband expedition, was sold for £19,000 at Sotheby’s in May 2021.