Antiquarian books have always been popular with collectors, and with the advent of the Internet there are now more people than ever before collecting valuable printed books. Within the field of antiquarian books, there is a vibrant niche of collectible books on exploration and hunting, and these have been reaching astonishing prices in the last two decades. Want a signed copy of a book by Henry Stanley or David Livingstone? Better be prepared to fork over upward of $10,000. Until recently, however, collectible books on big-game hunting had not reached the astonishing levels of some ultradesirable books such as hand-colored bird books and rare early works in Latin. That all changed when Sotheby’s of London sold a Rowland Ward Ltd. publication for an eye-popping price of 27,500 pounds sterling, which translates to over $37,500 in U.S. dollars.
The book was a remarkably well-preserved copy of Count Potocki’s Sport in Somaliland, which is a journal of an elaborate hunting expedition in 1895 on which the Count took his personal valet, a cartographer, and the Polish painter Piotr Stachiewicz along to record the journey. He certainly traveled in style! The book is handsomely illustrated with copper gravures depicting scenes of hunts for elephants, rhinos, lions, and leopards, and is bound in ivory-colored cloth depicting a large lion head. Why not look in your attic to see if you have a copy? As far as we are aware, this is the highest price ever paid for a Rowland Ward Ltd. publication, and it is very likely the highest price ever paid for a book on big-game hunting.