Victorian travel album

A watercolour from The Ramblings and Adventures of an Indian Officer, a Victorian travel album by Mark Batt Tanner sold for £135,000 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

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Meticulously assembled by a soldier named Mark Batt Tanner who travelled in India and Egypt from 1852-85, it includes over 150 original watercolours - a third of them full folio - plus around 50 albumen print photographs taken by Tanner at sights in Cairo and Giza in the 1850s.

The photographs, all titled and signed in ink to the borders, were of particular commercial importance.

The six earliest, dated 1851 when photography was in its infancy, include a previously unrecorded print of the Sphinx partially buried up to its neck in sand.

The auction house described it as “a fantastic item which cries out to be published”.

Victorian travel album

One of the watercolours from The Ramblings and Adventures of an Indian Officer, a Victorian travel album sold for £135,000 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

The album, assembled by Tanner on his retirement from the Bombay Army in 1856, was later inherited and restored by his brother Lt Col Albert Tanner, Royal Fusilier.

An inscription reads: “I inherited this book of sketches from my brother Mark Batt Tanner … it was then in a most dilapidated condition … I rearranged, and had it newly bound, adding in my own handwriting extracts from his journal regarding his travels and some of the places he visited in the East between 1852 & 1885.”

Family descent

The album, consigned by family descent, came for sale in Exeter with an estimate of £8000-12,000.

There were four interested parties above £50,000 and it was ultimately sold online. With 25% buyer’s premium, the winning bidder paid close to £170,000. The album is returning to the Indian sub-continent.

Victorian travel album

The Sphinx at Giza, an 1851 photograph included in the Victorian travel album that sold for £135,000 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood consultant Roger Collicot said: “The album as a whole was a snapshot of a time gone by when British colonialism was at its peak, but rather than just a dry record of one man’s time in the army, it was littered with quirky anecdotes about mess life, his promotions, theatrical skits… the author nearly being consumed by a tiger!

“The photographs were probably the most commercially valuable element, particularly the early images of the Giza plateau, alongside topographical views of Egypt, India and Madeira from the beginning of commercial photography.”

Exceptional watercolours

Collicot added: “The watercolours were exceptional too, though, being as bright and clean as the day they were painted. They were accurate representations of areas off the usual tourist routes, depicting landscapes, forts, important buildings, river crossings etc.”