Album of John Thomson’s Malaya photos – £27,000 at Hartleys.

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The vendors who brought it into the Ilkley rooms had no idea of how it came into their family’s possession and little idea of the value.

However, from the quarto-size cover of crushed burgundy morocco with the gilt title Photographs Penang etc it was obvious it had quality.

The 40 10½in x 8¼in (25.5 x 20.5cm) albumen photographs of mid-19th century Malaya, many of them annotated, were mounted on top-quality paper and the album was estimated at £8000-12,000 at the September sale.

The pictures of landscapes, cityscapes and peasant life were taken by Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) who, during his 10 years in the East, made two visits to Malaya in 1861 and 1863.

There he developed his ground-breaking photo-journalism style, publishing a series of books on his return to Britain. He went on to make his reputation documenting London street life and his money working as a Mayfair high society portraitist, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881.

However, it was the East that put a premium on the album which is destined to return there after it sold to a dealer at £27,000.