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Historic photos snapped up in £300,000 auction at Crewkerne

By shill  |  Posted: February 11, 2014

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One of the photos by Felice Beato that fetched £173,000

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The variety of lots in Lawrences’ recent sale of books and manuscripts was remarkable and spanned five centuries.

The Crewkerne auctioneers reported very keen interest in the whole auction and bidders in the room competed with telephone bidders and internet interest to yield some very strong prices from the 400 lots on offer.

A rare album of 68 albumen photographs of China and Japan, compiled by Capt Roderick Dew, RN (1823-1869) and composed of images acquired by him from the celebrated photographer Felice Beato led the day. The views included panoramas and town scenes in China and Japan, views of the Emperor's Palace and the Summer Palace in Peking, scenes in Hong Kong and architectural subjects of historical significance. Against keen competition from British and Oriental specialist dealers, the album was secured by a buyer in China, bidding by telephone, who was keen enough to exceed the firm's estimate of £50,000-£70,000 to buy the lot for £173,000.

Early highlights included £3,820 paid for Henry Meyer’s `Illustrations of British Birds` in four volumes, illustrated throughout with 320 hand-coloured lithographs; £1,430 for 20 volumes of the `Illustrated London News`, spanning over half a century from 1843-1898; £980 for a mid-17th Century edition of Aesop's Fables; £810 for Seigfried Sassoon's `Memoirs of an Infantry Officer`; and £740 for a copy of the scarce and controversially lewd 1908 copy of `Amphora` by the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley.

A fascinating archive from the family of Robert Loraine (1876-1935) attracted some very determined bidding. Loraine was an actor in London and on Broadway and a successful actor-manager. He was noted for his performances in major roles by Shakespeare, Strindberg and G. B. Shaw but was also a pioneering early aviator, being the first man to cross the Irish Sea in an aircraft. His archive comprised a captured Boer War flag (£1,370), a captured Mauser `broomhandle` shoulder stock (£810), his compass used in the flight across the Irish Sea (£1,550), a captured rudder control for a German Albatross combat aircraft (£2,620), a pair of German binoculars from an airplane shot down by Loraine in 1915 (£1,190) and numerous other effects. The archive, offered as 35 lots, totalled £26,500.

Other lots of foreign content deserve special mention: an album compiled by Winifred Warneford of drawings, portrait photographs and cuttings relating to Rorke's Drift and life in the Cape in 1872-1900 made £5,730; and James Prinsep's album of `Benares Illustrated` containing lithographs of India (1833) took £2,620. The day's total was just a little shy of £300,000.

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