Rare book on Norfolk Broads sells for world-record price and is most expensive book Keys of Aylsham has ever sold

'Towing The Reed' from Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads.

'Towing The Reed' from Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads.

A rare book of Victorian photographs showing life on the Norfolk Broads has been sold for a world-record sum at auction in Aylsham.

Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads went under the hammer this afternoon for £75,900 - more than double its estimated price.

The book, containing 40 platinum prints of photographs taken by Peter Henry Emerson, was snapped up by someone in the London book trade who did not show their interest until the bidding had reached about £62,000, according to Andrew Bullock head of auctioneer Keys' book department.

'It's the most expensive book ever sold by Keys. We're all a bit shell-shocked - but in a pleasant way,' said Mr Bullock.

Just 25 copies of a deluxe version of the book were printed in 1886 with a further 175 copies of a standard edition, including the one sold yesterday. Many have since been broken up and the photograph pages sold separately.


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Cuban-born Emerson, a pioneer of the naturalistic aesthetic and a passionate defender of photography as an art form, destroyed his printing plates so that no further copies could be made. Text for the book was written by Thomas Frederick Goodall.

Mr Bullock said the previous highest price paid for a copy was $70,000 in America a few years ago, then equivalent to about £52,000.

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The vendor was not present at today's sale. 'If she had been, I think we might have had to call for an ambulance!' joked Mr Bullock.

The woman brought in the book, which had belonged to her father, unaware of its value.

'When I first looked at it I told her that at the absolute minimum it was worth £20,000. She was amazed. She said 'That much! It's only a book. Who would pay that much for a book?'' said Mr Bullock who officially estimated the price at £25,000-£30,000.

Competition in the sales room yesterday afternoon had been fierce, with five live phone bidders, two private bidders in the room, and a Canadian bidding live on the internet.

'It just kept going up and up,' he added. 'We were thinking: 'It's got to stop some time!'

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