British photographic history

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Trivia: What is the most Oxfam has ever made from any item donated through its shops and sold at auction?

Give up?

Well, it was one of seven books donated by a gentleman at the Teignmouth branch of Oxfam, one day shortly before Christmas last year.

The book in question described the quest of two Victorian scientists in finding their long-lost brother in Fiji back in 1881. Entitled "A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Levu", this unique photo book consisted of 44 portraits of Fijians, and was written and self-published by Gerard Ansdell in 1882. According to the report "Ansdell and his brother, scientists and members of the Royal Society of London, had set out in 1881 in search of a lost brother, who they believed was working on a coffee plantation in Fiji. He was tracked down in Viti Levu, and Ansdell and his brother documented everything from their trip to create what was a vivid anthropological record of life on the South Pacific islands."

Valued by Oxfam's own team of specialist valuers at £2,000 to £3,000, this historical book stunned the charity and Bonhams, when it went for £37,000 in April this year - enough to buy 1,500 goats, feed 5,300 families or provide safe water for 41,000 people!
The most Oxfam had raised from a single book until now was £18,000 for a 17th century economic treatise in 2005, and for an early novel suppressed by Graham Greene.

Luke Batterham, a books specialist for Bonhams, said they were surprised by the "huge amount" the book made. But a multiple bidding war, including one bidder who was believed to have tracked the rare book since the only one came up in auction in Australia in 1977, helped propel it to an Oxfam record. "It falls into that category of if you don't buy it now you're unlikely to see another copy," said Batterham. "It was in exceptional condition. It's very rare in its own right and there were some very tenacious people with an anthropological interest in Fiji."

The rest of the story can be found here. Guess I'd better make my way to the nearest Oxfam now ....

Photo: A photograph from A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Levu, which was discovered in an Oxfam bookshop and has raised more than £37,000 at auction for the charity (Oxfam/Press Association).

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Comment by Michael Wong on September 17, 2010 at 9:29
Another prized find by Oxfam as reported by the BBC today! This time it is two 19th century photo albums of Argentina taken by French photographer Esteban Gonnet. They were discovered by a volunteer at the Oxfam shop in Jesmond, Newcastle.

The pictures, taken by French photographer Esteban Gonnet, are given an estimated price of between £3,000 and £5,000 by Christies who are auctioning them off in London next Wednesday.

The full report can be found here.

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