London and the world in focus at auction including an 18th century map of the capital

Large-scale 18th century map of the capital joins a wider global outlook at auction…

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

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John Rocque’s extraordinarily detailed Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster and Borough of Southwark is an important record of the capital as it looked in the mid-18th century.

At a scale of 36 inches to the mile, it was the first large-scale survey carried out since that produced by William Morgan in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666.

A second edition of 1749, but incorporating only a few minor changes to the first edition of 1746, was another highlight of the Sotheby’s (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) auction of November 13 that included the Columbus ‘eye-witness’ account covered last week (ATG No 2369).

Rocque’s 24-section folding map has overall dimensions of roughly 7 x 14ft (2.13 x 4.26m) when the sheets are joined. Estimated at £20,000- 30,000, it was bid to what must surely be a record £65,000.

Faraway lands

In the extensive Middle Eastern section of the sale £22,000 was bid for a 1926, German facsimile of the ‘Charta Rogeriana’, or ‘Book of pleasant journies into faraway lands’, as the Arabic title may be literally translated.

This was a world map produced in 1154 by Muhammed al-Idrisi at the court of Roger II, a Norman ruler of Sicily who had commissioned the work.

Bid to £35,000 was a rare copy of the much later but first large folio atlas printed in the Islamic world.

The work of Mahmud Raif Efendi, it was published in an edition of just 50 copies in Constantinople in 1803-04 and was principally intended for use by high-ranking officials or important institutions. However, of even that small number many were destroyed in a fire during the Janissary revolt of 1807, an uprising in which its creator also lost his life.

This copy, like many others, lacked the celestial chart*, but retained all 24 terrestrial maps.

One other notable success in this part of the sale a bid of £18,000 on a large chromolitho poster of 1914, issued by the Hijaz Railway Company and the shipping line Österreischischer Lloyd to advertise travel arrangements for those undertaking the Hajj.

“ Thomas Child was one of the most important photographers working in Beijing during the 19th century

Travel was by steamer from Alexandria to Haifa, where pilgrims would join a train on the Turkish-built line than ran from Damascus to Medina. Plans to extend the line to Mecca ended with the outbreak of the First World War.

A good many photographic lots featured in the Sotheby’s sale, and though there was a collection of 1870s photographs by Frederick Dally of British Columbia that sold at £26,000, it was lots featuring India and other Asian subjects that mostly brought the higher sums.

Like the British Columbia lot, a number of these – including the first two lots noted below – had as their provenance the collections of the late art historian Sven Gahlin, whose Indian miniatures were sold with great success in London in 2015.

The photograph of figures seated in great luxury on a kneeling elephant seen above is one of 213 albumen prints in an album of Indian and Nepalese interest featuring work by Shepherd & Robertson, Bourne and others dating from the 1880s. That album sold for £60,000, while another of northern India and Nepalese interest, featuring some 130 albumen prints by Eugene Clutterbuck Impey and others, made £28,000.

Attributed to Benjamin Simpson were the 79 albumen prints that made up an 1860s album of ‘Aborigines of India’. Working in the Indian Medical Service, Simpson was a keen and award-winning amateur photographer whose work was widely reproduced.

From a different source came came a lot offering eight glass plate negatives and one positive of people and views of Beijing that sold for £14,000. Described by Sotheby’s as very rare, and “the only known surviving original negatives of China by Thomas Child, one of the most important photographers working in Beijing in the 19th century”, they were offered together with a set of recently made positive prints.

Child in Bedford

This summer, two octavo manuscript journals kept by Child sold for £6800 in an August 3 sale held by W&H Peacock (17.5% buyer’s premium).

Child had initially moved to China to work as a gas engineer for the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs, taking with him his wife and children, but became so enamoured of the country that he stayed on for nearly two decades. During that time his amateur photographic work began to bring him commercial success.

The journals sold in Bedford relate to his original voyage from London to Peking and his first year’s residence.

The natural history section that opened the sale was led at £34,000 by a Gould …Humming Birds of 1849- 61, the five volumes illustrated with 260 coloured litho plates.

What was described as “an attractive” copy of the first British bird book to be issued with colour plates, a 1731-34 first of Eleazar Albin’s Natural History of Birds containing 306 engraved and coloured plates, made £17,000.

* A copy retaining that celestial chart, and estimated at $100,000-150,000, is being offered by Christie’s New York on December 4.