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It had been guided at $300,000-500,000 in Sotheby’s 50 Masterworks to Celebrate 50 years of Sotheby’s Photographs sale on April 21.

After a battle between six online bidders it was hammered down at $1.6m (£1.15m) to New York dealer Hans Kraus Jr Fine Photographs.

A graduate of Trinity College Cambridge and a Liberal MP, polymath Fox Talbot was a British scientist and inventor. As a photography pioneer he invented the salted paper and calotype processes which were precursors to later photographic processes such as photogravure.

His published books, including The Pencil of Nature, were illustrated with original salted paper prints.

The collection at Sotheby’s had been given by Fox Talbot to his sister Henrietta Gaisford (née Feilding) in the 1840s and had remained in the family until the auction.

Record price

Sotheby’s said the collection was “arguably the most important lot of 19th century photographs to have ever come to market” and that “the price paid for the group set a new auction record for the artist”.

The group included loose photographs (such as York Minster, pictured above, personal albums, fascicles of his book The Pencil of Nature, pictured below, and a complete Sun Pictures in Scotland.