Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Rare early photobooks of Mecca set new auction record

The personal copies of author Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje were sold at Sotheby's London this week

One of the images from Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje's photobooks on Makkah, which sold for a record price at auction this week. Sotheby's 
One of the images from Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje's photobooks on Makkah, which sold for a record price at auction this week. Sotheby's 

A pair of rare early photobooks of Mecca have set a new auction record during a specialised sale in London.

During Sotheby’s Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History sale, the two photobooks by Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje sold for a record £212,500 (Dh994,695), achieving more than double its pre-sale estimate.

The unique, personal set of illustrated books by the Dutch orientalist feature some of the earliest published photographs of Mecca and its pilgrims from all parts of the Islamic world.

The set sold on Tuesday were the personal copies of Hurgronje himself, seeing them reach the highest ever price tag for any copy of the photobooks sold at auction.

Hurgronje converted to Islam, becoming known as Abd al-Ghaffar, and spent a number of years living in Mecca, studying life in the Holy City. On his return to the Netherlands, he published the largest single illustrated monograph of Mecca of the time, offering a historical survey of the city and details of the daily life of its inhabitants.

An exert from Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje's photobooks on Mecca, which sold for a record price at auction this week. Sotheby's
An exert from Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje's photobooks on Mecca, which sold for a record price at auction this week. Sotheby's

“We are thrilled with the record result that was achieved at Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday in London for Snouck Hurgronje’s personal copies of his pioneering photobooks on Mecca and its pilgrims,” says Richard Fattorini, Sotheby’s senior specialist of books and manuscripts.

“The volumes and photographs had been carefully preserved in the family for several generations, and bidders were excited to see this specially bound set of photobooks for the first time, which led to strong competition in the saleroom and a final price of £212,500 (estimate £80,000-120,000).”

Early photographs of Mecca continue to be an area of great interest for specialist collectors, regularly attracting high price tags. Sotheby’s continues to hold the auction record for the first photographs of the Holy City taken by Egyptian photographer Muhammed Sadik Bey in 1880/81, which sold in its London sale rooms in 1998 for £1.3 million (Dh6.1 million).

Further highlights from this week’s sale include an auction record for the first map to name Singapore, published 200 years ago in May 1819, which soared over its pre-sale estimate to achieve £35,000 (Dh 163,970), and a rare ‘Blue Map’ of China produced during the Qing Dynasty, which sold for over 3.5 times its estimate to realise £106,250 (Dh497,769).

Updated: May 17, 2019 04:44 PM

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