Previous News - Captain Cook's adventures end in a Kent saleroom


Book of engravings discovered in a Victorian desk sells for £3,500 at The Canterbury Auction Galleries

The Victorian desk was like something out of a Dickens novel. It was made for a clerk who would have sat on a high stool and it had five drawers down each side for his ledgers and papers.

It was what was found in the bottom of one of them that was special: a book of engravings charting the South Seas voyages of Captain Cook. When he flipped through the pictures, Michael Roberts, general manager of The Canterbury Auction Galleries, recognised their significance immediately.

“Among the engravings was a portrait titled ‘Portrait of Man of Nootka Sound’,” Michael said. “When I was a teenager, I found the exact same engraving and bought it for a few pounds. The excitement of finding something so rare and more than 200 years old relating to the discoveries of Captain Cook is what helped spark my interest in antiques and led me to becoming a fine art auctioneer.”

Captain Cook sailed his ship Resolution into Nootka Sound in the south western coast of Vancouver Island in Canada on his third and final voyage in 1778. Aboard was John Webber, who drew Cook’s maps of discovery and sketches of the topography and inhabitants they encountered.

On seeing Cook’s ship, the Nootka chief instructed his people to go and meet the explorers and learn about them and what they wanted. Cook wrote in his log: “A great many canoes filled with the Natives were about the ships all day, and a trade commenced betwixt us and them, which was carried on with the Strictest honisty on boath sides. Their articles were the Skins of various animals, such as Bears, Wolfs, Foxes, Dear, Rackoons, Polecats, Martins and in particular the Sea Beaver, the same as is found on the coast of Kamchatka”.

Captain Cook went on to the South Pacific, where he was killed by natives in Hawaii, but a grandly titled book was the result of his and Webber’s endeavours. “Voyage to the Pacific Ocean undertaken by the Command of His Majesty for making discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. Performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke and Gore, in His Majesty's ships "The Resolution" and "Discovery" in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779 and 1780” was published in 1785.

There in the bottom of the clerk’s mahogany desk was a virtually complete copy. It sold for £3,500 – more than twice the presale estimate – in the recent Two Day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries. The local owner of the desk had no idea it was there. The book was purchased by a Kent dealer. The desk sold for £720.

Most valuable lot in the sale was a good George IV 18 carat gold enamel and diamond set octagonal "Royalist " snuff box, the blue enamelled lid set with a central oval cartouche containing a gold coloured medallion within diamond set borders bearing the profile of Charles I, worded" CAROLVS SECUNDUS". Hallmarked London 1821, it sold to a Dover collector on estimate for £12,000.

Most valuable diamond ring was a modern solitaire, the 1.03 carat brilliant cut stone set in white gold, shouldered two baguette cut diamonds, which also sold on estimate for £3,000, however, the sale included an unusual Chinese gold mounted bracelet set with three oval panels of hornbill, each deeply carved with floral and foliate decoration interspersed by fine filigree panels of birds and fish. Contained in its own oblong ivory box, which was also set with three carved oval cartouches to its lid, the bracelet sold to a specialist London dealer for £3,700 against an estimate of £2,000-3,000.

Proof that the market for good quality Georgian furniture is far from depressed, a charming, George II bachelor's walnut chest of four long graduated drawers with original brass handles overturned its estimate to sell to a Surrey buyer for £6,000, while pick of the longcase clocks was by Myers of Southwark, the 12ins arched silvered dial with subsidiary seconds and calendar dials and strike/silent dial to the arch, in mahogany case. It was purchased by a Kent collector for an above estimate £2,700. Henry Myers was recorded working in London in 1804, while a Mary Myers worked there from 1809 to 1811.

A somewhat smaller timepiece, a lady’s 18 carat gold wristwatch by Patek Philiippe with plain black leather strap and retaining its original maroon leather case and outer box, sold to a private Kent buyer on the Internet for £2,400.

In silver, a pretty pair of Edward VII silver and enamelled rectangular photograph frames of Art Nouveau design, measuring just 9 by 6.75 inches by Charles S. Green & Co., Birmingham, were assayed in 1907 and sold to a Dover private buyer for £2,900.

In an interesting contrast, a comprehensive service of King’s pattern table silver for six place settings weighing a total of 192 ounces sold for £2,300. By C.J. Vander Ltd. and Roberts & Belk Ltd, and assayed on various dates ranging from 1981 to 1987, the service comprised table and dessert forks; soup, dessert, fruit, grapefruit, tea and coffee spoons; fish and fruit knives and forks; butter knives; four table spoons; a pair of salad servers; soup, sauce and two smaller ladles; a pair of fish servers; table and butter knives; a three piece carving set; cake slice and cheese knife, all contained in an oak canteen.

Good quality entries are now invited for the October 8-9 Two Day sale of fine art, antiques and collectors’ items, the entry deadline for which is August 30. The Canterbury Auction Galleries offers free saleroom valuations every Friday from 10am-1pm when specialists are available to appraise any item brought to them. In addition, free advisory visits to your home or premises can be arranged should items be too large or numerous.

For further information, please contact Chris Wacker at the saleroom on 01227 763337

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