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Darwin’s book continues to shock

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The unexpectedly high price for the January 1872 edition on offer was paid by an American bidder represented by a third party at the auction.

Cannon’s Auctioneers’ recent sale of collectables and antiques in Hilton showed that even a sixth edition copy of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, is still very much in demand on auction.

The book astounded the seasoned KwaZulu-Natal auctioneers by fetching R26000. The unexpectedly high price for the January 1872 edition on offer was paid by an American bidder represented by a third party at the auction. If it had been a first edition, the price would have made headlines throughout South Africa.

Copies of the original edition of Darwin’s landmark book, published in 1859, are in such short supply that they regularly fetch staggering amounts on auction overseas.

Morton Auctioneers in Texas, for example, sold a copy for $273 000 (about R3.9million at current exchange rates). Bonhams managed £98500 (about R1.7m), and Christie’s sold a copy in London for £103250 recently. The book consigned to Christie’s had been bought for a few shillings more than 50 years ago.

Other prices achieved at the Cannon’s sale in Hilton included:

• R36 000 for a bronze sculpture by Llewellyn Davies of Dick King and his Zulu servant, Ndongeni, starting their epic ride from Durban;

• R25 000 for an iconic Gabriel de Jongh oil on canvas landscape;

• A 19th century mahogany encased grand piano by CJ Gebauhr sold for R40 000;

• R9 000 was the final bid for World War l medals belonging to Arthur FW Newton, winner of the Comrades Marathon five times, with a biography and documents relating to his life;

• A German short model 1898 knife bayonet, 382mm long, sold for R7 500. Cannon’s is now accepting consignments for its next sale on July 30.

For more information visit www. cannons.co.za, send an email to cannons@futurenet.co.za or call 0333433364 – particularly if you have an old Darwin volume on a shelf somewhere.

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