Strong prices were achieved for singular rarities in this, our inaugural Cabinet of Curiosities Auction.
Covering a breadth of subject matter, this unique sale held particular focus on wonders of the natural world, including rare works of taxidermy, a veritable library of erudite publications, as well as fossilised and geological phenomena.
An important Scottish Highland collection formed its backbone, this covering a range of pieces acquired by a private individual over many years. The breadth and quality of their collection is illustrated by the auction’s top five selling lots; a rare quadruple sea lily crinoid at £5,750, a Gibeon meteorite of good size and attractive form at £5,000, a nest of six fossilised Hadrosaur eggs at £4,200, a folio set of the Geological Survey of England and Wales at £3,500, and a fine polished malachite specimen at £1,800.
The wonderful range of select specimens represented throughout, was only complemented by a noteworthy library of volumes relating to natural history. The best-selling lot in this respect was an important first edition set of English Botany by the prolific author and naturalist James Sowerby, also hammered down at £1,800. As with the majority of works on offer, this set was replete with the most splendid colour illustrations, minute but magnificent works of botanical art in their own right.
An important copy of the pre-Darwinian text On Naval Timber, was also offered. This rare work by the Scottish grain merchant-cum-naturalist Patrick Matthew is significant in that it is often considered the first work of natural history to clearly anticipate Charles Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, doing so twenty-eight years prior to the man himself. Produced at a low cost, the volume doesn’t appear often, our copy being sourced from a local Glasgow-based collection. Its importance was not lost on bidders, eventually hammered down to a French collector for £1,300.
Naturally, the unique and specialist nature of the items offered meant that there was strong international competition on many of the 188 lots sold. Noteworthy examples include the Gibeon meteorite, which will now be making its way to Singapore after the hammer came down at £5,000; an unusual Demon Detective Camera dating from the 1880s, which has now been shipped to Israel after selling for £1,500; and a much-admired Meiji-period volume of plant and insect woodblock illustrations, which is now in Holland after it sold for £280. This, however, only gives a brief flavour to the international nature of the sale, with bids being registered on the rostrum from America to China, and even Australia, all contributing to a hammer total in excess of £67,000.
With this auction being such a roaring success, we are delighted to inform you that a follow-up is scheduled for February of next year. Entries of natural, scientific and peculiar histories are now invited…