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Rare Ornithological Book Set to Sell for £15,000-20,000

8th September 2023.

A copy of John Gould’s Monograph of the Trogonidae will be offered in the Books, Maps and Manuscripts Sale at Tennants Auctioneers on 29th September, with an estimate of £15,000-20,000 (all figures exclude buyer’s premium).


From lowly beginnings, John Gould (1804-1881) became the most celebrated British ornithologist of the 19th century, contributing enormously to ornithology and evolutionary science whilst amassing a personal fortune through his self-published and now highly prized folios. Having worked first as a gardener, and then as a taxidermist, Gould went on to publish an extraordinary forty-one folios with over 3000 plates, as well as writing numerous scientific papers. Gould would study, describe, and sketch the birds, before having his wife or later other artists such as Henry Constantine Richter, William Matthew Hart and Edward Lear complete the hand-coloured lithographs to his exact specifications. The illustrations were beautifully and carefully executed, artistic yet naturalistic depictions of birds set amongst appropriate foliage.

A beautifully illuminated Late Medieval Prayer Book will be offered with an estimate of £2,000-3,000 plus buyer’s premium. Measuring just 10cm high, the prayer book in Latin script is thought to have been made in the 14th or 15th century, possibly in Holland. It was once in the ‘Valuable and Extensive Library’ of George Dunn of Woolley Hall, which was dispersed in three auctions at Sotheby’s between 1913 and 1915.

An outstanding album of early engravings, woodcuts and original artwork depicting the towns, castles, houses, monasteries and inhabitants of the Austrian Empire will be offered with an estimate of £2,000-4,000. Possibly compiled in the late 17th century, with illustrations thought to date from the 16th century onwards, the large folio album measures 56cm x 43cm and an early bookseller’s catalogue entry pasted in the front describes it as ‘A Noble Old Scrapbook’. It forms a fascinating record of the important buildings and towns of Austria, and it is divided in to four regions: Styria (South-East Austria), Carinthia (South Austria), Carniolia (Slovenia) and Tyrolis (Western Austria).

An interesting album documenting the Eastern Front in the Second World War will be offered with an estimate of £300-500. Entitled ‘SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division-4, Luga 1941’, the album is thought to have been compiled by Hauptsturmfuhrer Rieskogel, who appears in a photograph at the front of the album in SS dress uniform with Iron Cross and General Assault Badge. The album contains a wide variety of photographs of the army in convoy, at camp, military burials, battle scenes and soldiers receiving medical attention along with hand-drawn and coloured maps of the Luga area.

Also of note is a small family collection of manuscript books, with the earliest of the three volumes being a ‘Private Calendar’ with detailed diary entries from 1st January 1795 to 13th September 1802 (estimate: £150-250). The author was Stephen Wilson, a silk manufacturer who recorded his life around Hackney and Bethnal Green. The second volume is ‘In the Days of Old. A Quaker Child, by Granny’, written by Isabella Tylor (née Harris) for her grandchildren. The illustrated volume details her childhood in a ‘village near London’ – Stoke Newington – then a leafy village amongst the fields. She then moved to Mayfield in Sussex, before moving to Kensington where the book was written in 1893. Containing original watercolours, a birth certificate, photographs and family inscriptions, the volume is offered with an estimate of £300-500. Finally, there is a volume of manuscript memoirs of wounded soldiers at St. Mary’s War Hospital, Reigate between 1915 and 1916 (estimate: £150-250). Freda Meryon Chance, a V.A.D. at St. Mary’s Red Cross Hospital, encouraged the patients in her care to write accounts of their personal experiences in her notebook. There are 32 contributions, with several detailing action at the front and the circumstances which gave rise to their injuries and several drawings.

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