By Charlotte Stanes, on 22-Jun-2016

In a marathon event, held over 3 days at Mossgreen in Melbourne this week, held in association with Australian Book Auctions, Denis Joachim's extensive collection of Australian colonial books, fine art and prints has finally gone under the hammer.

It feels like the end of an era. Collectors of Joachim's calibre are now so few and far between and many see this as the last private collection of its kind to be released onto the market.

With the enormous interest this auction inevitably drew, the results were somewhat mixed. Interest was clearly focused at the top end, however, and there were plenty of impressive results reached throughout the 1040 lot sale. Quality, rarity and a focus on early Colonial history were the key trends.

Mossgreen sold the 1040 lot 'Denis Joachim Collection of Important Australian Colonial Books, Fine Art, Photographs & Prints' in Melbourne over three days from 19 – 21 June. The entire collection brought in $3,245,488 including buyer's premium, just shy of the $3.6 million estimate, with demand for early Colonial literature and photographs. An album of 60 photographs by Fred Kruger including several featuring Victorian Aborigines with war implements and a canoe, (above) sold for $11,780 IBP.

The 480 lots of books sold on Day 1 and the morning of Day 2 formed the heart of Joachim's collection, charting the colonial history of Australia, from voyager discoveries to the First Fleet, early flora and fauna records through the formation of the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.

Books Part 1 was the best performing group of the lot. Rich in rarities and with many desirable items that have not appeared on the market for 40-50 years, the books drew interest from several institutions and collectors around the country.

Highlights included an extremely rare first edition of Edward Donovan's 'Insects of New Holland' (lot 40) - best known as the first illustrated, systematic survey of Australian insects, which sold for $62,000 IBP (estimate $20,000-30,000).

Two highly desirable natural history folios by John William Lewin - the first professional artist to settle on the Australian frontier and thought to include the earliest engravings produced in Sydney - sold very well. 'Prodromus Entomology. Natural History of Lepidopterous Insects of New South Wales' (lot 68) sold for $93,000 IBP (estimate $40,000-60,000). The companion lot, 'A Natural History of the Birds of New South Wales' (lot 69) sold for $66,960 IBP (estimate $10,000-15,000).

A rare first edition of the 'official' account of the First Fleet, by Governor Arthur Phillip (lot 74), detailing the voyage of Governor Philip to Botany Bay sold for $68,200 IBP (estimate $30,000-40,000).

A particularly rare and horrific narrative of a shipwreck in 1836 by William Edward Brockett (lot 103) sold for $54,000 IBP (estimate $12,000-18,000).

The photographic collection was sold during the afternoon of Day 2, and while the results are the kind that look bad on paper (of the 207 photographic lots, 147 did not sell), when examined they reveal that the market simply wants what it wants - and the things that it wanted generally sold very well.

A great number of the unsold items in the photographic section fit into the 'travel album' category, for which there is not a strong market.

Early Colonial photographs and depictions of Aboriginal people drew the most interest and there were several important highlights from this section, including W.Blackwood's Album of Australian Scenery (lot 482), featuring various Sydney views produced in 1858 and 1859, which sold for $59,520 IBP (estimate $50,000-80,000).

Early Melbourne views were also keenly contested, with an album containing 12 views of Melbourne taken in 1839 and 1861 by John Hunter Kerr (lot 526) selling for $24,800 IBP (estimate $15,000-20,000).

Also with Victorian views, an album of 60 photographs by Fred Kruger (lot 516), including several featuring Victorian Aborigines with war implements and a canoe, sold for $11,780 IBP (estimate $10,000-12,000).

The Northern Territory album, containing 48 photographs (lot 630) with subjects including an Aboriginal camp and Aborigines preparing for Corroboree, sold for $16,120 IBP (estimate $5,000-10,000).

A single photograph of William Landsborough, known for leading a search for Burke and Wills after their disappearance, standing with two Aboriginal trackers, (lot 657) circa 1862, sold for $6,200 IBP (estimate $4,500-6,000).

The Fine Art and Prints section, sold in the evening of Day 2 and the mornings of Day 3 concluded the auction with some very good results for items of important early colonial history.

Wilbraham Liardet's recollection of Melbourne from the South Side of the Yarra Yarra (Lot 695 ), possibly painted in 1839 and depicting the beginnings of settlement along the Yarra, sold for $111,600 IBP (estimate $30,000-50,000). The same result was achieved for George Hamilton's Crossing Cattle over the Murray River near Lake Alexandrina (Lot 769 ).

A stunning little watercolour by John Clarke depicting Parramatta River, circa 1840 (Lot 696 ) sold for $62,000 IBP (estimate $15,000-25,000). Another whimsical little scene, painted in 1855 by Matthew Moresby 'The Church on Pitcairn Island' sold very well at $49,600 IBP (estimate $9,000-12,000).

Unsold, were the set of 10 watercolours by John Heaviside Clark (Lot 692 ) which were so well publicised prior to auction (see also link to recent AASD article by Terry Ingram ). The set is regarded as the first series of drawings of Indigenous Australians, completed around 1813. Listed in the catalogue as 'Estimate on Request', the price of these rare works was said to be 'in the hundreds of thousands'. At the time of writing, Mossgreen CEO, Paul Sumner, was considering after sale offers and was confident the set would soon be sold.

Many of the top lots in this auction went to institutions and several major private collectors accounted for the bulk of the middle value items. The entire collection brought in $3,245,488 including buyer's premium, just shy of the $3.6 million publicised in the media releases prior to the sale. By all accounts the vendor and his family are very happy with the result.

Sale Referenced: The Dennis Joachim Collection, Day 2, Fine Art, Mossgreen Auctions, Melbourne, 20/06/2016

About The Author

Charlotte Stanes has worked the Australian auction industry from the ground up, starting in 1998 as an auction assistant at Christie’s before moving into marketing management at Bonhams & Goodman, Sotheby’s Australia and most recently at Mossgreen. Charlotte is now a marketing consultant and writer, based in Melbourne.