I was quite surprised to read recently that Charles Rothschild collection he left to Harrow school comprising three and half thousands specimen (these mostly were given to him by brother Walter) sold at Bonhams a few years ago for considerably more than the eighty thousand pounds asking price. There must have been some pretty rare specimens in that lot.
There were, including some syntypes, mainly from the Tytler collection. I assisted the person cataloguing the specimens in advance of the auction, and he sent me photos of a number of specimens & labels so I could check their status.
I believe the collection was sold by agreement to a UK private buyer before the auction actually took place.
Thank you Adam for your reply. I certainly have not heard of that amount being spent on a butterfly collection in Britain in recent years. Still if you are lucky enough to be a millionaire, it is of little matter buying a Rothschild collection for that amount.
When I was 13 (late 1972) I had the honour of being able to examine the collection at Harrow School with Prof. Eric Laithwaite of Imperial College (he of gyromotor fame). It was a superb collection with amazing Papilionidae. I found the Eurytides protesilaus group draws very interesting, but there were also many birdwings that would make most collectors drool.
I believe that the school atually kept a proportion of the collection, but sold off most of it. I think sale was agreed at about 100,000 pounds, but I'm not absolutely certain of that. I never actually saw a complete listing of the specimens for sale, and was just sent photos of many specimens to check their identity and also possible type status.
Well, it's probably good that the institution mentioned sold it off rather than exile it to some far flung broom closet or basement. Maybe they wearied of the upkeep or simply didn't have someone to do the upkeep. Sometimes I think private collectors are better custodians of collections than smaller institutions that struggle to keep everything donated to them. Anybody paying such sums for a collection will likely covet it and protect it for a long time. They will see it as an investment due to its provenance and they know they will get a handsome return should they decide to sell one day.
I guess it sounds an awful money and it is to us lesser mortals but only £28. 58p give or take a few pence per specimen for the Rothschild collection. Bates in his 10 years in the Amazon was getting 3 pennies per specimen no matter what they were from Stevens which works out around about a £1 today. Not a lot when you got yellow fever and the rest. At least Bates sent his off to Stevens now and again, poor old Wallace's main collection went up in flames on the ship, no wonder he went to the Malay Archipelago afterwards to earn a living by collecting specimens.