Medals awarded to British botanist WL Balls and books he wrote about cotton and Egypt, part of a lot sold for £6200 at Keys.

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Balls was an expert and author renowned for his work on the cotton plant in Egypt and his achievements earned him numerous honours and accolades.

Cotton had become big business in Egypt after the American Civil war affected supplies and prices rose, causing British textile manufacturers to look elsewhere. By the end of the 19th century, Egypt had eclipsed the US and earned 93% of its revenue from cotton.

From 1904-10 Balls was botanist to the Khedival Agricultural society and then worked in the Egyptian Government Department of Agriculture 1911-13 and again from 1927-33.

From 1915-26 he became the first head of the Experimental Department of the Fine Spinners and Doublers in Cheshire, and in 1934 returned to Egypt as cotton technologist to the Ministry of Agriculture and chairman of the Cotton research Board.

Other achievements included being awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the Textile Institute, the highest honour it could bestow.

Impressive honours

One lot offered at the Aylsham saleroom comprised an Egyptian Institute French silver medal dated 1859, a fine enamelled silver gilt medal with green and yellow ribbon and Egyptian hallmarks for 1932-33 in original box, an Egyptian star shaped enamelled medal with red and purple ribbon, silver gilt, the reverse marked Lattes and hallmarks for 1927-28, a bronze medal for the Cotton Congress Egypt 1938 with bust of King Farouq on the front and initials PM (Percy Metcalfe, engraver) with thistle signed P Turin, housed in the original leather box.

Offered together with two books on cotton written by Balls, the group sold for £6200, more than 10 times the top estimate, to an Egyptian phone bidder.


Medals awarded to British botanist WL Balls and books he wrote about cotton and Egypt, part of a lot sold for £6200 at Keys.

Keys said: “They were consigned by a relative of the late William Balls and attracted strong interest from collectors in the UK and overseas including Egypt.

“The King Farouq medal was engraved by two well-known engravers: Percy Metcalfe and a Frenchman, P Turin.”

Guided at £300-500, another Balls lot included a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) George V enamelled medal in original Garrard & Co presentation box together with a miniature set of medals and a CMG (Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George) in original Garrard box. It took £1450.

Sold for £180 (estimate £100-150) was a lot offering various medals: Walsingham medal 1906 in original box for John Pinches London, RSA medal in white metal awarded 1917-18, Royal Geographical prize medal 1898, French medal for the International Conference on genetics, Paris 1911 engraved by R Bernard, Egyptian marksman medal and further Rifle Club medal.