This auction concluded the landmark four-part series of sales of the exceptional library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching. The combined sales realised £9.2 million (including premium), more than double the pre-sale high estimate of £4.4 million, and attracted a large number of new bidders and buyers to Sotheby’s from around the world.
Many new auction records were made, as with the previous sales. The top lot of the fourth sale was a fine copy of Shackleton’s Aurora Australis, the first book conceived and printed in Antarctica “at the Sign of the Penguins” in 1908; this sold for £122,500 (est. £50,000-70,000), more than double the previous auction record. Another Shackleton book, a signed limited edition of the Heart of the Antartic (1909) sold for a record £50,000 (est. £10,000-15,000). Other highlights included Willes’s History of Travayle in the West and East Indies (1577), which realised £52,500 (est. £30,000-40,000), Vancouver’s Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World (1798), which sold for £47,500 (est. £15,000-25,000), and Weddell’s Observations on the Probability of Reaching the South Pole (1826), which made £40,000 (est. £7,000-10,000).
Over 40 years, Franklin Brooke-Hitching assembled the finest private collection of English language books relating to voyages, exploration and discovery from the 16th century to the early 20th century. Together they tell the story of mankind’s persistent quest - over half a millennium - to explore and understand the world. Many of the books are unique or very rare, including presentation copies and splendid bindings, and all are notable for being in the finest possible condition. The books cover scientific discovery, medicine and natural history, the health of seafarers, astronomy, the calculation of longitude and whaling.
This fourth and final sale of the Brooke-Hitching library covers authors Q to Z, with the books ranging in date from 1577 (Richard Wille’s History of Travayle in the West and East Indies, and other countreys, lot 1356) to 1940 (Aurel Stein’s Old Routes of Western Iran, lot 1209). As with the previous sales, the sea voyages and overland travels encompass every continent.
Notable in this sale are superb copies of books relating to the Polar expeditions of Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton (whose Endurance expedition 100 years ago is currently the subject of many commemorative talks and events). Highlights include a fine copy of the Aurora Australis, the first book printed in Antarctica (lot 1137); a deluxe copy of The Heart of the Antarctic signed by Shackleton and members of the Shore Party (lot 1138); Shackleton’s own copy of the Antarctic Handbook which he took to the South Pole in 1901 (lot 1143); and a fine set of the South Polar Times complete in original dust-jackets (lot 1140).