This was the most important auction of rare books and maps relating to China since 1988, and attracted new bidders and buyers from around the globe, including mainland China and Hong Kong. The top bids for books were £35,000 for a first French edition of Marco Polo’s travels and £25,000 for a fine set of John Thomson’s Illustrations of China and its People, from the library of Bernard Hanotiau. The unexpected top lot was a 16th century Daoist manuscript which realised £485,000, followed by an auction record of £269,000 for a fine example of the Chinese “Blue Map”, both from the Floyd Sully collection. The top prices for photographs were for a pair of albums by J.C. Watson, which sold for £40,000 and £37,500 respectively.
This impressive sale of books, maps, photographs and works on paper relating to China will be held on 7 November 2016, during the annual Asian Art in London. At the heart are two magnificent and complementary single-owner collections formed over many years by two private collectors in two continents, Bernard Hanotiau in Belgium and Floyd Sully in Canada. Both collections have been independently exhibited, with each having a scholarly and richly illustrated catalogue published to accompany them.
The library of Bernard Hanotiau comprises a wonderful collection of travel books on China dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on illustrated works, together with rare nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs and photobooks. The books are noted for their fine condition, and many of the antiquarian volumes are in splendid tooled or armorial bindings. Highlights include the first edition of Marco Polo’s travels in French (Paris, 1556), and a rare early edition in Italian (Venice, 1555); the first Latin edition of the first European atlas on China: Blaeu’s Novus Atlas Sinensis (Amsterdam, 1655); John Thomson’s Illustrations of China and its People (London, 1873-74); a collection of photographs by Thomas Child (1870s), and an album with photographs by William Saunders and H.C. Cammidge. A selection of 130 works from Hanotiau’s library were exhibited at the Bibliotheca Wittockiana, Brussels, from October 2009 to January 2010 under the title “Western Travellers in China: discovering the Middle Kingdom”.
Floyd Sully’s collection is noted for its rare maps, illustrated texts, and albums, many of which were produced in China. Highlights include the impressive Chinese “Blue Map” made during the Qing dynasty; a beautifully illuminated Daoist manuscript (c.1543), a large wall map by Ma Junliang (c.1780s); a hand-coloured manuscript map of Taiwan; albums of Chinese costume, trades, and lanterns; and nineteenth century photographs of Beijing, views along the Yangtze River, and images of Nanking by Chinese photographer Pow Kee. Thirty eight works from Sully’s collection were exhibited at the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library and Fine Arts Building Gallery in 2013 at the University of Alberta under the title “All Under Heaven: the Chinese world in maps, pictures, and texts”.
Highlights from other owners include a rare collection of photographs by Dr George Morache (1837-1906); a manuscript atlas of Shanxi Province (c.1860s); an 1860s album of photographs by Major Watson, Dr John Dudgeon and John Thomson; and a large and finely painted map of Beijing on silk (Daoguang period, c.1820-1850).