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Bid to £4600 in a TW Gaze (18% buyer’s premium) sale of August 31, it was part of a 60-lot collection of works focused on East Anglia.

Emerson’s (1856-1936) last published collection of photographic studies has been described as his final statement on art and life – though he was at the time barely 40 – but others have been more precise.

One website on photographic publications (photogravure.com) cites the misty qualities of his images, “…evoking the winter months or the damp, misty mornings on which he captured the scene”, and describes them as strongly reminiscent of Whistler’s Nocturnes and “… the earliest body of photographic work to show Japanese influence”.

It also cited the view of eminent art historian, photographer and director of the George Eastman Museum, Beaumont Newhall, whose History of Photography remains a standard text: “It does not seem possible these images were made in 1890-91; he seems to have entered a whole new period of the perception of form, detail, composition. He belongs with Monet and the Post-Impressionists and even anticipates much later periods in art – the early Abstractionists, for example.”

For those who know the Broads, it is worth noting that this copy also bears the signature of Herbert Woods (1891-1954), founder of a still-thriving Norfolk boatyard and designer of the revolutionary Broads light cruiser, Speed of Light.

Only three copies of the standard issue have made more at auction and records cite only one example of the deluxe run of 100 copies on Japanese vellum. That one sold for $16,000 (then just over £8000) by Swann in New York in 2007 – but there was, in fact, another example in a Keys of Aylsham sale of September 2016 that made £4400.

It was among the vast collections formed by the late Ron Fiske at his Norfolk country House, Morningthorpe Manor – and it is from that same source that a work on the Thames emerged at another East Anglian saleroom.

Picturesque Thames

Shown below is the frontispiece and specially created title-page of a finely bound work focusing on the Thames that made £5800 in an August 29-30 sale held by Keys (20% buyer’s premium) of Aylsham.


The opening spread of a finely bound, four-volume celebration of the Thames – sold by Keys at £5800.

Some 490 extra views, maps, etc, relating to the river had been added to a copy of Westall & Owen’s Picturesque Tour of the River Thames, an Ackermann publication of 1828 containing 24 hand-coloured aquatint plates.

Contained in four large quarto volumes, bound in green morocco gilt by Rivière, are 74 (of 76) coloured aquatint views from Boydell’s Thames and 62 (of 64) from Ackermann’s Oxford, along with aquatints from Ireland’s Picturesque Views of the River Thames and much more besides.

Once part of William Foyle’s library, and sold for £12,000 by Christie’s in 2000, this extraordinary compilation was unsold when first offered by Keys in its big 2016 sale of Fiske’s Morningthorpe Manor library. This time it made a much more modest £5800.