Rare books by Mark Catesby and Lawrence of Arabia sell for £257k at auction
- Credit: Archant
Two rare books with Suffolk links sold for more than a quarter of a million pounds at an auction yesterday.
A first edition two-volume copy of The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published in the first half of the 18th Century and compiled and illustrated by Sudbury naturalist, Mark Catesby, sold for £194,500 at Sotheby’s in London.
Moments later, a copy of Lawrence of Arabia’s book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, signed by Lawrence, and also signed and originally owned by Lawrence’s friend, Viscount Allenby, of Felixstowe, sold for £62,500.
Mark Catesby’s book was originally published in parts over 18 years, between 1729-1747, and contains 220 hand-coloured engraved plates. All the figures of the plants and animals were etched and engraved by Catesby.
The book has been described as “the most famous colour plate book of American plant and animal life”.
Catesby was born in Sudbury on March 14, 1683. His father, John Catesby, was town clerk of Sudbury and the Catesby family owned a farm and house, Holgate in Sudbury.
Catesby Meadow, Sudbury, is named after Mark Catesby, who is one of the few Suffolk people to have a plant named in his honour: catesbaea melanocarpa, a rare species of flowering plant in the coffee family.
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The rare first edition copy of Catesby’s book is among £15million worth of antique treasures put up for sale by the Duke of Northumberland to pay for flood damage in Newcastle in 2012.
Mark Catesby’s original drawings for the book were bought by King George III in 1768 for £160. They are part of the Royal Collection at Windsor.
In 1926, Lawrence of Arabia produced a so-called subscribers’ edition of his book, Seven Pillars Of Wisdom. It contained only 170 sumptuously-bound copies, each one signed by Lawrence. Subscribers each paid thirty guineas for the book.
The subscribers’ edition copy sold at Sotheby’s yesterday was originally owned and signed by Lawrence’s friend, Viscount Allenby, who spent much of his childhood at his family’s home, Felixstowe House.
When Allenby was made a Viscount in 1919 he chose to be known as ‘Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and of Felixstowe’. Allenby Park in St Andrew’s Road, Felixstowe, is named after him.
In the 1962 Oscar-winning film, Lawrence of Arabia, Allenby is portrayed by the late Jack Hawkins.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is an autobiographical account of the experiences of TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, while serving as a liaison officer with rebel forces during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks from 1916-1918. Later Lawrence was briefly based at RAF Felixstowe, where he was known as Aircraftsman 1st Class TE Shaw.