- Letter Writer
- Biographies and personal histories, Ship histories and stories, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1999 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I read with interest your latest Review (Vol. 20 No. 1 March 1999) and noticed a reference to the late LCDR Geoffrey Ingleton by CDRE Snow. Until recently I had not heard of Geoffrey Ingleton but I was reading a magazine on antiques a few months ago and it had an article on this prolific bibliophile. In addition, the article referred to an auction of his books at Lawsons in Sydney. The auction was held on 22 March 1999. A look at the catalogue for the auction indicates what a broad range of interests Ingleton had. He was a writer of historical works; notably his greatest work was a history of the navigator Flinders. In addition Ingleton had a great interest in hydrography, was an artist of some repute and an avid collector of books and paraphernalia from all over the place.
My particular interest in the auction centred around the treasure trove of maritime books for sale. It is my understanding that this auction was the last of a number of auctions. His collection must have been huge as there were over 600 lots for sale. Of particular note was the original log from HMVS Cerberus on her maiden voyage from England to Hobson’s Bay. This sold for $4600. In addition there were a number of logs from vessels conducting surveys around the Australian coast. A set of three manuscripts from Capt. Thomas Watson, including the logs of the schooner Essington and brig Diana sold for $20,000. The highest price paid for a lot was for “an authentic and interesting narrative of the late expedition to Botany Bay” by An Officer. Published in 1789, the book originally cost four pence. It sold for $44,000 and was purchased by an unknown telephone bidder.
At the lower end of the scale for price were a number of 18th and 19th century maritime books such as a book of naval tactics from 1797. This book had been rebound by Ingleton in quarter calf but the pages were in excellent condition. This raised $260. A complete run of the Naval Chronicle from Jan 1799 to Dec 1818, in varied condition, sold for $2000. “A Treatise on Naval Gunnery” written in 1860 and 668 pages long, sold for $160, well above the estimate of $60/70.
A most interesting lot from a human point of view was a biography of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Oliver. This book was Admiral Oliver’s personal copy and Ingleton must have treasured it as he had written in the front that it must not go for auction or be otherwise sold during his lifetime. The book sold for $70.
I was able to purchase two items. The first was “Professional recollections on Points of Seamanship, Discipline & (as printed in Review)” by Liardet, published in 1849. This was purchased for $176 and is a fabulous book describing a large number of evolutions and giving much advice to the mariner of the day. The second lot I bought was two volumes by “An Undistinguished Naval Officer” titled “The British Navy in the Present Year of Grace 1886” volumes II and III. These I bought sight unseen as the bidding went in reverse down to $10, where I bid. Someone bid $15 and for fun I bid $20 and the lot was mine. These volumes are in near mint condition and describes the shortcomings of the Victorian Navy as the author sees it. It is a shame I don’t have Volume I (hence the lack of bidding) but it is nice to read a book of the period that is critical of the navy, as most describe it in glowing terms.
One particular complaint from the book reminded me of many CO memoranda I have seen over the years. This concerns the loss of the language of the sea and its replacement by ‘the language of the street and the gutter’. Another complaint was the loss of mess camaraderie. It seems that 113 years later nothing has changed.
All in all the Ingleton auction was a terrific way to buy very rare books, although speaking to several book dealers they indicated that prices seemed very high. Some of these items however, will never come up for sale again as a number of the institutions were bidding and once bought by them are unlikely to be sold. In total the auction raised over $280,000.