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One of the more spectacular chromolitho plates from the set that make up 'The Yellowstone National Park…', $120,000 (£91,605) at Bonhams New York.

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The day’s highest bid was $120,000 (£91,605) for a famous 1876 series of colour plates of The Yellowstone National Park, and the Mountain Regions of Portions of Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Utah.

Reproduced above is one of the more dramatic of these renowned images, for which the publisher, Prang & Co of Boston, employed as many as 56 layers of carefully registered lithographic stones to create an extraordinary depth of colour in what have been dubbed the finest chromolitho plates ever produced.

Individually framed, this suite of the 15 plates produced by Ferdinand Hayden after paintings by Thomas Moran was not accompanied by text, the two maps or original publisher’s portfolio, and around half a dozen sets have made more – as much as $320,000.

Sold at $32,000 (£24,425) at the October 21 auction was an 1851 first in original wrappers of Lorenzo Aldrich’s Journal of the Overland Route to California!, one of the scarcer gold rush journals.

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Captain James Cook’s 'New Chart of the River St Laurence…', sold for $60,000 (£45,800) at Bonhams New York.

Cartographic highlight of the sale was A New Chart of the River St Laurence from the Island of Anticosta to the Falls of Richelieu…, a first-state example of the 12-sheet chart engraved for the Admiralty in 1760 by Thomas Jefferys.

Sold at $60,000 (£45,800), this survey was drawn up in preparation for moving ships into action against Quebec in 1759 and against the French in North America generally.

Carried out in difficult conditions under the direction of the young Captain James Cook on his first command, HMS Pembroke, it did much to advance his career, but this major survey of the region also involved work by a team of land surveyors, among them Samuel Holland and Joseph des Barres.

Auction records, said Bonhams, show only one other copy of this map appearing at auction over the past 50 years – possibly the same one.

Top shellers

A very different attraction in this US sale was a group of rare works on seashells, four of which are noted here – with sample plates from three of them illustrated above.

The group was led in terms of sheer size by a 20 volume, first editon set in an early 20th century binding of Reeve and Sowerby’s Conchologia iconica: or Illustrations of the Shells of Molluscous Animals that made $35,000 (£26,720).

Published over the years 1843-78, it contains over 2700 hand-coloured litho plates on which some 10 times that number of species are depicted. All were based on the vast collections of Hugh Cumming, which in 1865 had been acquired by the Natural History Museum.

Illustrated with just 12 engraved plates by Franz M Regenfuss, all in contemporary colour, was a 1758, revised second issue of Auserlesne Schnecken, Muscheln und andere Schaalthiere… or Choix de Coquillages et de Crustaces. In a contemporary Danish binding bearing royal arms, this made $25,000 (£19,085).

Sold at a record $28,000 (£21,375) was a 1795, Viennese first in modern cloth of JJ Spalowsky’s Prodromus in systema historicum testaceorum …, illustrated with just 13 coloured engraved plates.