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Photograph from A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Luve, which was discovered in an Oxfam bookshop and has raised more than $F110,772 at an auction for the charity.

FIJI TIMES ONLINE Elenoa Baselala Monday, April 26, 2010
A photograph from A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Luve, which was discovered in an Oxfam bookshop and has raised more than $F110,772 at an auction for the charity.
A RARE book about Fiji has stirred interest in the United Kingdom after it fetched more than 37,000 ($F110,772) in an auction for OXFAM.
Doctor Paul Geraghty of the University of the South Pacific yesterday was surprised to learn of the amount the A Trip to the Highlands of Viti Levu, written by Gerard Ansdell 128 years ago fetched in the auction.

The linguist said it was a book that was hard to find. He said a copy of the book was in the country and in the possession of either the National Archives or the Fiji Museum.

The Guardian reported that a dignified gentleman walked into the Teignmouth branch of Oxfam, handed over an old book and said with a smile: "I think you're going to find this one interesting." The staff routinely thanked him for his donation and were thrilled when the unusual book of photographs, describing two Victorian scientists' quest to find their long-lost brother in Fiji in 1881, was valued at 2000 ($F5987) to 3000 ($F8981).

But the mysterious book has stunned the charity and Bonhams, the auctioneers, by fetching more than 37,000 ($F110,772) last week the most Oxfam has ever made from any item donated through its shops and sold at auction.

A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Levu consists of 44 portraits of Fijians and was written and self-published by Gerard Ansdell in 1882.

Ansdell and his brother, scientists and members of the Royal Society of London, had set out in 1881 in search of a lost brother, who they believed was working on a coffee plantation in Fiji.

He was tracked down in Viti Levu, and Ansdell and his brother documented everything from their trip to create what was a vivid anthropological record of life on the South Pacific islands.

The book was one of seven donated by a man who went into the Oxfam shop in Devon one day shortly before Christmas. He told the manager he had worked in publishing and carefully explained the background to six books.

But it seemed that he deliberately said nothing about the Fijian tome.

Oxfam branch manager Katherine Foweraker did some basic research on the internet and then took the book to Oxfam's specialist "valued" service, a team of specialist valuers who help members of the public as well as staff.

The only other record of another copy of the book, which the scientists distributed among friends, was sold at an auction in Australia for $A190 ($F331) in 1977.

Luke Batterham, a books specialist for Bonhams, said they were surprised by the "huge amount" the book made.

But a multiple bidding war, including one bidder who was believed to have tracked the rare book since the 1977 auction, helped propel it to an Oxfam record.

"It falls into that category of if you don't buy it now you're unlikely to see another copy," said Batterham. "It was in exceptional condition. It's very rare in its own right and there were some very tenacious people with an anthropological interest in Fiji."

The most Oxfam had raised from a single book until now was in 2005 for 18,000 ($F53,889) for a 17th century economic treatise, and for an early novel suppressed by Graham Greene.

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