Although the titles were covered by mounts to the frames, the views offered here on August 14 were those engraved by Joshua Gleadah after drawings by James Gray.
The titles are General View of the Falls of Niagara from the British Shore; A View of Brockville, Upper Canada, from Umbrella Island; Montreal from St Helen’s Island; York from Gibralter Point and Kingston from Fort Henery.
The so-called Gray and Gleadah prints of Canada were a favourite of the Royal Ontario Museum curator F St George Spendlove whose 1958 book The Face of Early Canada remains a key reference work on the subject.
He wrote: “In the year 1828 seven coloured aquatints of Canada from drawings by James Gray were engraved by Joshua Gleadah and J Ryall.
“They were published by Willett & Blandford, London, and dedicated to Sir Peregrine Maitland, Lieutenant Governor, and the Gentlemen of Upper Canada. The set is of extreme rarity and… in a class by themselves in the Canadian field.”
When Spendlove was writing he knew of only two sets of seven engravings. In addition to the five plates mentioned above he added Quebec, from Point Levi and Horse Shoe Fall of the Falls of Niagara from the Upper Bank of the British Shore.
However, the copy of Gray and Gleadah prints that emerged for sale as part of the famous Winkworth trove of Canadiana at Christie’s King Street in April 2015 had eight prints – including the previously unknown plate titled Falls of Montmorenci from the east bank.
This apparently unique set, sold at the time for £42,000 and reappeared as part of the Norman Bobins Part One sale in New York on June 16. There, estimated at $30,000-50,000, it took $65,000 (£52,000).
Just occasionally, rare colonial-era prints do surface in the UK. In June last year, a full set of Canadian scenes by the military artist and topographical draughtsman Major General James Pattison Cockburn (1779-1847) sold for £130,000 at Forum Auctions of London.
The 12 hand-coloured elephant folio aquatints – six of Quebec City and six of Niagara Falls – had been found by a Dreweatts valuer in a Norfolk attic.