Sold on a Hokusai print, a rare Dunhill pen and a trophy from the golden age of taxidermy

From the thousands of lots that appear at auctions every week on, here we focus on three fine objects sold in January.

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A case of Australian mammals and reptiles by Henry Shaw of Shrewsbury – £15,000 at Tennants.

The fauna of empire

Hodnet Hall in Shropshire, home of the Heber family for centuries, formed its natural history collection during the golden era of taxidermy  from the early 1870s to the 1920s. Several Victorian and Edwardian generations of the family were international travellers including Hugh Lewis Heber-Percy (1853-1925) who made trips to British dominions in Australia, Africa, India and the Far East.

An inscribed copper shield to this 3ft 7in x 4ft 2in (1.04 x 1.32m) floor-standing case of three platypus, a goanna, flying squirrel and three quolls reads Australia, Collected by HLHP.

The case itself is signed and dated to interior floor H Shaw, Salop, (18)76. Henry Shaw (1812 -87) was a notable local name: operating from the High Street in Shrewsbury his mounts included those in the collections at Hawkstone Park and Ludlow Museum. 

It was sold at Tennants in Leyburn on January 15 as part of a 116-lot sale of taxidermy from Hodnet Hall. Estimated at £8000-12,000, it went to a European private buyer via at £15,000.

Hokusai in blue

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Joshu Ushibori (Ushibori in Hitachi Province by Hokusai – £6800 at Hannams.

Although catalogued at Hannams in Selborne, Hampshire on January 11 simply as ‘a 19th century Japanese woodblock print’, the signature to this 15 x 10in (38 x 24cm) scene of a boat with Mount Fuji beyond gave more clues to its famous author.

It that of the great Edo period ukiyo-e painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) with this print, known as Joshu Ushibori (Ushibori in Hitachi Province), one of the Fugaku sanjurokkei (Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji), issued from c.1830-32. Hokusai’s most celebrated work, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is part of the series. 

The earliest prints in the Mount Fuji series were made with these blue tones known as aizuri-e. Prussian blue pigment had not long been introduced to Japan from Europe and Hokusai used it extensively. Once the publisher Nishimure Yohachi, was sure of the series' success, prints were made with multiple colours.

Estimated at just 50-75 (the guide given to a dozen Japanese woodblock prints in the sale), it sold rather better at £6800 to a buyer on

The price is a good one: versions of this print offered in recent specialist sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s have hammered at £4000 each. 

The Dunhill-Namiki partnership

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Dunhill-Namiki lacquer and gold fountain pen – £8000 at East Bristol Auctions.

The deal struck in the 1920s between Ryosuke Namiki (1880-1954) of the Namiki Manufacturing Co in Japan and Alfred Dunhill in London to make luxury pens for the Western market created some of the most collectable of all fountain pens.

At a time when mechanisation and plastics were making pens cheaper, the pair hit upon the idea of creating deluxe items using the painstaking Japanese maki-e technique that involved sprinkling coloured metal flakes or powders onto wet lacquer.

This Dunhill-Namiki pen was offered by East Bristol Auctions on January 14.

It had the flat top associated with pens made during the 1920s and 30s, was relatively large at 5in (13cm) and is decorated with the addition of abalone shell with a dragon in gilt relief (takamaki-e) to the barrel and a mountainous scene to the cap. For three-dimensional decoration such as this four, five, or even more layers of lacquer might have been applied.

In addition to the Namiki logo that appears to the 14ct gold mounts, it is signed below the lever by the artist Shogo (b.1894) who joined the Namiki Co in 1928 and became the leading member of the firm’s group of decorators assembled by the master artist Gonroku Matsuda in 1931.

The pen did have a small crack to the lid, but it improved on hopes of £1500-2500 to bring £8000 from a buyer using


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