An extremely rare album of images by Victorian travel photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) has sold for £48,000 at auction – smashing the £20,000 auctioneer estimate.

Views On The North River comprises 14 sepia images from 19th century China and was originally published in Hong Kong in 1870. The auctioned album was originally owned by George Dods, the Acting Colonial Surgeon in Hong Kong, and has been in his family since. They only discovered its rarity and worth when getting a collection of old books relating to China valued.

An image from Views On the North River, credit Dominic Winter Auctioneers

“My heart nearly stopped when I saw the title-page for I instantly recognised it as a rarity, but it was only later when researching it that I discovered there are only a handful of copies known,” said auctioneer and photography specialist, Chris Albury. One copy of Views On The North River is held in the National Library of Scotland, another at the Hong Kong University Library, a third is in the Wason Collection at Cornell University and two others are privately owned.

Views On The North River was sold by Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Gloucestershire. AP has been a keen supporter of a recent successful project to restore John Thomson’s grave in Streatham Cemetery.