Rare book sells at auction for over £190,000

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A rare first edition copy of a 270-year-old book, compiled and illustrated by a man from Sudbury, has sold at auction for £194,500.

A mystery bidder bought the book by Mark Catesby at the auction at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday.

The two volume book, titled: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands had been estimated to sell for between £120,000 and £180,000.

The Sudbury-born naturalist had the book originally published in parts over 18 years between 1729 and 1747.

The first volume contains 120 hand-coloured engraved plates, while volume two contains 100 plates. All the figures of the plants and animals were drawn and etched by Catesby himself.

The book had been described as “the most famous colour plate book of American plant and animal life”.

The rare first edition copy is among a £15million collection of antique treasures put up for sale by the Duke of Northumberland, to cover the costs of flood damage in Newcastle in 2012.

Catesby’s original drawings for the book were bought by King George III in 1768 for £160 and they are now in the Royal collection at Windsor.

Catesby was born in Sudbury on March 14, 1683.

His father, John, was town clerk of Sudbury and the Catesby family owned a farm and a house – Holgate, in Sudbury.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Catesby seems to have been educated locally in spite of his affluent parents.

He was not university educated but benefited from the antiquarian and botanical knowledge of his grandfather, Nicholas Jekyl.

Catesby was in his late-20s when he set off on a voyage in 1712 to Virginia, where he stayed with his aunt, Elizabeth Cocke, and her physician husband.

Catesby spent the next few years travelling in and around Carolina and the West Indies before returning to England in 1719 with a collection of dried plants reported to have been the most perfect ever brought into the country.