Rare Darwin book once owned by Norfolk MP sells for £136,000

The rare Charles Darwin book, once onwed by Norfolk MP Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, which sold for £136

The rare Charles Darwin book, once onwed by Norfolk MP Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, which sold for £136,000 at auction in America. - Credit: Archant

A rare first edition copy of one of the most important science books ever written, which was once owned by a Norfolk MP, has been sold for £136,000 - in an American auction - after originally costing the equivalent of 75p.

Scientist Charles Darwin. Picture: PA

Scientist Charles Darwin. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Charles Darwin's 1859 book On The Origin Of Species carried the book plate and signature of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton.

He was MP for King's Lynn between 1865 and 1868, the High Sheriff for Norfolk in 1869 and lived at Colne House, Cromer.

He is likely to have been the original owner of the book which has been described as 'the most influential scientific work of the 19th century' and 'the most important biological work ever written.'

It cost 15 shillings (75p in modern money) when it was first printed.


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Only 1,250 first edition copies were printed and only 1,170 were available for sale, making them much sought-after when they come up for auction.

Sir Thomas's old book was down for a guide price of $100,000-$150,000 in a Sotheby's sale in New York. But was snapped up by an unnamed 'European collector' for $209,000 (£136,557).

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An auction house spokesman said the copy was in 'fine ' condition and its a 'distinguished provenance' would have further boosted its value.

It was among 200 rare books put up for sale by an American collector which sold for a total of £3,196,102.

Sir Thomas and his wife Lady Victoria Noel, daughter of the first Earl of Gainsborough, had 10 children. He died aged 78 in 1915. He has also been Governor General of South Australia between 1895 and 1898 and from 1899 he was president of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

His grandfather - who had the same name - was also an anti-slavery campaigner and one of Norfolk's most prominent nineteenth century figures.

The brewery owner was also founding chairman of the RSPCA, lived at Northrepps Hall and married Hannah Gurney, sister of Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. His image can be seen on £5 notes (a bespectacled figure in the group on the left of Elizabeth Fry).

@A first edition copy of the political debates between Abraham Lincoln, whose family came from Norfolk, and his rival, Stephen Douglas, in

Illinois in 1858 – which is signed by Lincoln – was bought for £81,673 by a London dealer at the same auction.

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