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Prestige Items

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  • The Hunter Sketchbook. Birds & Flowers of New South Wales drawn on The Spot in 1788 89 & 90 By captain John Hunter of the First Fleet.

    A really rather beautiful and slightly strangely titled work.

    We say strangely titled because we do not have to read far about the original sketchbook, (once owned by the great Rex Nan Kivell and now housed in the Australian National Library) to find that the sketches include fishes and people … and of New South Wales and also Norfolk and Lord Howe islands. Peeking at the reproductions of the sketches we can also see a kangaroo and a dolphin. What is really surprising is the rarity now of some of the birds he drew e.g. the Swift Parrot and we wonder where he saw that bird …

    Captain Hunter, to be Governor Hunter, known as a skilled sketch artist through the illustrations in his sought after First Fleet journal .. but these images take one’s understanding and admiration to a whole new level.

    No expense spared production limited to 500 copies and with a further 50 sets of unbound plates. Edited by John Calaby with assistance. Published in 1989. Quarto, x, 252 pages with 100 full page colour plates and other illustrations in the lengthy introductions. Bound in quarter calf, raised bands to spine, separate green leather title label, exotic marble paper covered boards, original removable glassine protector, silk ribbon release from original open slip cover. A fine copy.

    A special edition from a unique work of historical significance – an Australian National Treasure.


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  • The South Pole – An account of the Norwegian Expedition in the “Fram” 1910-1912 – Roald Amundsen – Queensland University Facsimile 1976

    The South Pole – An account of the Norwegian Expedition in the “Fram” 1910-1912 – Roald Amundsen – Queensland University Facsimile 1976

    Facsimile edition, and a scarce one, published under the moniker of the University of Queensland Press in 1976. The original edition was published in 1912 and is highly collectable. Two volumes bound as one making it quite an impressive book in stature xxv, 392 pages; x, 449 pages. Illustrated from the original with plates and maps, one folding of each. A very good copy in a very good dust jacket.

    The first to the pole. Account of Amundsen’s legendary dash to the Pole. He beat Scott’s Expedition by a month reaching the Pole on 14th December 1911. The use of dog sleds, better clothing, nutrition and a single minded purpose are factors that put Amundsen ahead of Scott.

    Norwegian Captain Roald Amundsen had initially intended make an expedition to the Arctic, but changed his plans at the last moment and announced he would try for the South Pole instead. His explanation to the public was that if he could beat the English and Japanese expeditions to the Pole then he could secure success and funds for his extensive Arctic expedition, and also snatch the prize for his own country.

    Amundsen sailed southward in the Fram to the Bay of Whales that would afford his expedition both the shortest route to the Pole and a route that would not overlap with either the Japanese or the English expeditions. From start to finish, Amundsen’s expedition ran like clockwork. He carefully planned every moment of the trip, using his experience in the Arctic and his extensive knowledge of dog-teams to help him through. His team was entirely Norwegian, accustomed to a harsh and cold climate, and were excellent ski-runners. In addition, Amundsen travelled light; he brought five men and fifty dogs on his expedition so that the latter could eventually serve as food for the former. Part of what doomed Scott’s party was the fact that he favoured men and ponies over dogs, bringing twelve men, eight ponies, and only twenty-six dogs.

    Amundsen’s party remained in excellent health and always had enough to eat from their plentiful provisions at their well-stocked supply depots. They also supplemented their food stores with a great seal hunt just before the winter, after which 120,000 lb. of fresh seal meat were added to their stores, which helped protect them against scurvy.

    Unlike Scott’s party, Amundsen’s party were also fortunate enough to have favourable weather conditions on their side, so that they were able to reach the Pole using their supply depots and dog sleds in just 99 days, a distance of 1860 miles, covering an astonishing average of 19 miles a day over frozen and difficult ground. Their journey was truly an extraordinary accomplishment, and Amundsen’s account of it is no less riveting

    Amundsen – Fine facsimile of The South Pole published by Queensland University


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  • Sikes Hydrometer by Buss – Hatton Garden, London – c1900

    Sikes Hydrometer by Buss – Hatton Garden, London – c1900

    A lovely classic Edwardian Sikes hydrometer sold by and with the bone plate of Buss of 48 Hatton Gardens, London.

    The float and all the weights carrying the same identification number – the float is engraved Buss. The bone backed thermometer also engraved with makers name and address. The plush lined box is as original no damage – a rarity.

    The Houses of Parliament in England wanted a better and more reliable hydrometer to use as an instrument for levying duty on beer, wine and spirits. Various glass instruments based on Robert Boyle’s principles were in use – none too reliable or trustworthy. So they ran a competition similar to that for the solution to the Longitude – won by Harrison and his chronometer. Sikes won this one with his rather beautiful looking instrument and it became enshrined in the legislation that the Sikes method should be used.

    Complete quality Hydrometer – love it!


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  • Bronze Plaque Swedish Polar Explorer Otto Nordenskiöld by Austrian Artist Hugo Taglang – 1905

    Bronze Plaque Swedish Polar Explorer Otto Nordenskiöld by Austrian Artist Hugo Taglang – 1905

    Produced to commemorate the Antarctic achievements of Swedish explorer Otto Nordenskiöld (1869-1928) who led a Heroic Era expedition to the Antarctic in 1901-1904. A fine image of the man decked out in heavy polar furs.

    Nordenskiold arrived in the Antarctic in 1901 and wintered on Snow Hill Island. Unfortunately, their ship the ‘Antarctica” got trapped in ice and sank in 1903. His back up Larsen eventually met up with the stranded team but was unable to get them away. They were eventually rescued by the Uruguayan Navy. Despite all this their visit was hailed a scientific success as they explored and researched much of Graham Land.

    Nordenskiöld was made Professor of Geography at Gothenburg University in 1905 the same year this commemorative was struck. He later went on to explore northern Greenland and in the 1920’s certain parts of South America. He was killed by a bus in Gothenburg crossing the road.

    80mm by 57mm weighing 170gm. The artist medallist Hugo Taglang (1874-1944) was born in Vienna. An example of this item is shown in the National Maritime Museum Collection, London ID MEC 2149.

    Otto Nordenskiöld an unusual Antarctic commemorative


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  • Antique Mineral Testing Kit – “Blowpipe Apparatus” by J.T. Letcher of Cornwall. Circa 1880-90

    Antique Mineral Testing Kit – “Blowpipe Apparatus” by J.T. Letcher of Cornwall. Circa 1880-90

    Museum quality example rarely found with so many remaining pieces. See Powerhouse Museum online for similar example reference H9154; also website 911Metallurgist for a good description of its use.

    These field kits were used in Australia by explorers and early State Geologists – the likes of Logan Jack, Rands, Dunston etc. they include apparatus and chemicals for grinding the sample, heating it and observing the colours in the flame to identify the constituent minerals.

    Designed and manufactured by J.T. Letcher of Truro Cornwall and awarded the Society of Arts Silver Medal and the Colonel Croll Prize in International Competition in 1878. Each set guaranteed to equal that deposited at the Society’s House.

    The use of the blowpipe was invented in Sweden in the 1700’s and further refined there at the Freiberg Mining Academy in the mid 19thC. This design by J.T. Letcher and its accoutrements became the standard in the later Victorian period.

    Original mahogany box containing a lift out tray with multiple compartments and layers containing tools, the blowpipe, a small anvil, rock hammer, spirit lamp, several chemical reagents in original containers etc.

    The containers are made of box wood with names to top lovely patina. Miniature test tubes with labels, test tube holder and much more.

    The original label inside the lid describes the contents full, a hole has been gouged, presumably to rest the crucible confirming this set saw field service. The crucible was made by and marked Royal Worcester – how good is that.

    The box still has it’s lock but the key is long gone. It has a worked patina and is still robust.

    Something special in the mineral field.



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  • Antarctic Curiosity – Regarding Scott’s Last Letter to Sir Joseph James Kinsey, Christchurch 24th March 1912. [Letter and photographs dated 1923]

    Antarctic Curiosity – Regarding Scott’s Last Letter to Sir Joseph James Kinsey, Christchurch 24th March 1912. [Letter and photographs dated 1923]

    There is a sequence of letters Robert Falcon Scott wrote in his diary before they died in terrible circumstances on their way back from the South Pole.

    Our ephemeral item has special interest in a year were his earlier letter, an original, (16th March 1922) to Sir Edgar Speyer has just this month achieved a world record for such an item of over four hundred thousand pounds at Bonham’s in London.

    We do not have the original letter otherwise we would now be in the Bahamas.

    We have a handwritten letter from an unknown party based at The Hotel Mansion, Bayswater Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney on 28th March 1923. It is addressed to Mrs Craven of South Devon England on the very distressed envelope.

    The letter says … “this as a photograph of the late Captain Scott’s last letter. The two words in the margin “now mine” [Actually Now I] were added the day before he died. I have held the original of this letter in my hand – it is one of Sir Joseph Kinsey’s cherished possessions. I was greatly impressed by all I heard about Scott and would like to talk about it some day”.

    And, enclosed are the two photographs that cover the letter that was torn from Scott’s journal for delivery .

    Scott’s letter reads

    To J.J. Kinsey – Christchurch – March 14th 1912

    My dear Kinsey – I’m afraid we are pretty well done (now I). Four days of blizzard just as we were getting to the last depot my thoughts have been with you often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through. I am sure.

    My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for them if the country won’t.

    I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the circumstances well enough.

    If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be ashamed of us – our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness.

    Your friend
    R. Scott

    Scott’s Last Letter to Kinsey – An early original reference from 1923


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