The public display on Captain Scott’s Discovery Antarctic expedition was opened by the President of the Royal Geographical Society Sir Clements Markham on 4 November 4, 1904, and was one of the first shows to be held at the newly opened Bruton Galleries.
The exhibition catalogue listed 484 items on show including 200 original sketches and watercolours by expedition artist Edward Wilson, 175 photographs by Reginald Skelton and “Articles of interest used by members of the expedition” ranging from clothing to the remains of the last sledge dog, a model of Discovery to kayaks, snow shoes and sledge flags.
Great and good kept in line
EJG Huxley in her biography of Captain Scott provides a description of the crowds: “Motor cars and carriages lined Bruton Street and Bond Street and persons of rank and fashion were marshalled into a long queue by a policeman.
“Society folk were not used to queues in those days and they protested that they had tickets; so had everyone, the constable replied, and kept them in line.”
Distinguished visitors to the gallery were invited to sign the visitors’ book. This historic volume which had long been forgotten surfaced last month in a West Sussex auction at Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium) Antiquarian and Collectors’ Books sale on July 26.
The handsome leather-bound volume with gilt lettering on the cover was found to contain some 2000 signatures for exhibitions at the Bruton Galleries from 1904-36, among which could be found those of many members and supporters of the Discovery expedition including Ernest Shackleton, Edward A Wilson, Charles Royds, Reginald Skelton and Ernest E Joyce, together with Sir Clements Markham and three Shackleton family members.
Among other signatures in the book could be found Ellen Terry, Walter Jerrold, Baden-Powell, and Maria Ameila, Queen of Portugal.
The Bruton Galleries closed in 1907 but reopened in 1908 and through various changes in ownership appears to have survived until 1936.
Other shows at the venue included exhibitions of Stephen Baghot de le Bere, Aubrey Beardsley, Jessie King, Alfred Aaron Wolmark, Evelyn de Morgan, Edward Gordon Craig, and Austin O Spare.
Toovey’s estimated the visitor’s book at a very modest £100-150 and not surprisingly it was spotted by a number of bidders and it sold in Lewes for nearly 40 times its low estimate, at £3800.