A collection of 19 cartes de visite depicting Charles Darwin – £126,000 at Reeman Dansie.

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The collection of images by leading Victorian photographers came for sale at Reeman Dansie in Colchester on November 8-9 from the estate of descendant George Erasmus Darwin (1927-2017) and may have been in the family since its compilation in the 19th century.

While many of the images are familiar, the album – discovered in a Georgian bureau, during a routine probate valuation – includes seven portrait cards personally signed by Darwin himself and each card is inscribed by Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta Litchfield (1843-1927). It had a guide of £50,000-100,000.

Offered from the same source was a related Victorian family photograph album which includes images of Darwin, his wife Emma and their children, together with related branches of the family including the Huxleys and Wedgwoods.


A Darwin album including photos of the scientist, his wife Emma and their children, together with members of the Huxley and Wedgwood families – £46,000 at Reeman Dansie.

Darwin’s wider circle is represented by a previously unrecorded photograph of his manservant Joseph Parslow, the wives of famous scientists including Mrs Haeckel and Mrs Hooker, actress Jenny Lind, the author William Makepeace Thackeray and royalty including Queen Victoria. A photograph of a young child is annotated as Namesake of CD in Hamburg and named verso as Darwin Beger.

It is accompanied by a letter dated February 12, 1879, which begins: “Dear Sir, My wife and I, beg to present you our very best wishes for your birthday, and hope that it may return always in health and happiness. Enclosed the photograph of our little Darwin…. The Beger family named their child after Darwin and sent the photo as a 70th birthday gift. This album was estimated at £5000-10,000 but raced away to bring £46,000.

Both albums attracted international interest and attracted four principal phone bidders. The two albums sold to the same buyer.

Results given here are hammer prices. Reeman Dansie charges 20% buyer’s premium.