A popular Antiques Roadshow innovation is the invitation to its experts to bring along an item from their own collections which they regard a favourite. Generally, the pieces are deeply personal or have a meaningful family association.
A sale at Forum Auctions in London recalled one of the items which impacted on my own upbringing. It pleasantly jogged my memory, too.
This was a copy of Jules Verne’s wonderful early science fiction masterpiece A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
This was my go-to book from the shelves of a cavernous cupboard in a back bedroom. I probably read it before I had reached double figures in age and eventually knew it back to front. I loved its deep blue cover with its shimmering title lettering. It had such a lot of pages for a wee lad, though.
Forum’s copy of the French novelist’s classic was the first English edition, published in 1872, with the so-familiar blue pictorial cloth with its gilt lettering.
The central figure was the eccentric German scientist Professor Otto Lidenbrock, who believed that volcanic tubes reached to the centre of the earth. With his nephew Axel and their guide Hans, they climbed into Iceland’s volcano Snæfellsjökull, contending with many dangers, including prehistoric creatures, before being spewed back to the surface by an active volcano, Stromboli, in southern Italy. Awesome!
The Journey inspired many later authors, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs – and, who knows, perhaps stirred me to eventually head off for adventures on six of the seven Continents.
Bracketed at £1500-£2000, the hammer price for this excellent copy was £2800.
Picture: A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, £2800 (Forum Auctions).